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Full text of "The life of Samuel Johnson, LL. D. : comprehending an account of his studies and numerous works, in chronological order; a series of his epistolatory correspondence and conversations with many eminent persons; and various original pieces of his composition, never before published: the whole exhibiting a view of literature and literary men in Great-Britain, for near half a century during which he flourished"

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Quo ft ut OMNIS 

Votinja pateat "vtluti descripta taliella 
Vita senis Horat. 


VOL. I. 







L ', 




EVERY liberal motive that can actuate an 
Authour in the dedication of his labours, concurs in 
directing me to you, as the person to whom the fol- 
lowing Work should be inscribed. 

If there be a pleasure in celebrating the distinguish- 
ed merit of a contemporary, mixed with a certain de- 
gree of vanity not altogether inexcusable, in appear- 
ing fully sensible of it, where can I find one, in com- 
plimenting whom I can with more general approba- 
tion gratify those feelings I Your excellence not only 
in the Art over which you have long presided with 
unrivalled fame, but also in Philosophy and elegant 
Literature, is well known to the present, and will con- 
tinue to be the admiration of future ages. Your 
equal and placid temper, your variety of conversation, 
your true politeness, by which you are so amiable in 
private society, and that enlarged hospitality which 
has long made your house a common centre of union 
for the great, the accomplished, the learned, and the 
ingenious ; all these qualities I can, in perfect confi- 
dence of not being accused of flattery, ascribe to you. 

If a man may indulge an honest pride, in having it 
known to the world, that he has been thought wor- 
thy of particular attention by a person of the first em- 
inence in the age in which h^ lived, whose company 


has been universally courted, I am justified in avail- 
ing myself of the usual privilege of a Dedication, 
when I mention that there has been a long and unin- 
terrupted friendship between us. 

If gratitude should be acknowledged for favours 
received, I have this opportunity, my dear Sir, most 
sincerely to thank you for the many happy hours 
which I owe to your kindness, — for the cordiality with 
which you have at all times been pleased to welcome 
me, — for the number of valuable acquaintances to 
whom you have introduced me, — for the nodes cocn- 
ceque Deum, which I have enjoyed under your roof. 

If a work should be inscribed to one who is master 
of the subject of it, and whose approbation, therefore, 
must ensure it credit and success, the Life of Dr. 
Johnson is, with the greatest propriety, dedicated to 
Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was the intimate and belov- 
ed friend of that great man ; the friend, whom he de- 
clared to be " the most invulnerable man he knew ; 
whom, if he should quarrel with him, he should find the 
most difficulty how to abuse." You, my dear Sir, 
studied him, and knew him well : you venerated and 
admired him. Yet, luminous as he was upon the whole, 
you perceived all the shades which mingled in the 
grand composition ; all the little peculiarities and slight 
blemishes which marked the literary Colossus. Your 
very warm commendation of the specimen which I 
gave in my " Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," of 
my being able to preserve his conversation in an au- 
thentick and lively manner, which opinion the Pub- 
lick has confirmed, was the best encouragement for me 
lo persevere in my purpose of producing the whole of 
my stor*^ 


In one respect, this Work will, in some passages, be 
different from the former. In my " Tour," 1 was al- 
most unboundedly open in my communications, and 
from my eagerness to display the wonderful fertility 
and readiness of Johnson's wit, freely shewed t<> the 
world its dexterity, even when I was myself tin- ob- 
ject of it. I trusted that I should be liberally under- 
stood, as knowing very well what I was about, and by 
no means as simply unconscious of the pointed ef- 
fects of the satire. I own, indeed, that 1 was arrogant 
enough to suppose that the tenour of the rest of the book 
would sufficiently guard me against such a strange im- 
putation. But it seems I judged too well of the world ; 
for, though 1 could scarcely believe it, I have been 
undoubtedly informed, that many persons, especiallv 
in distant quarters, not penetrating enough into John- 
son's character, so as to understand his mode of treat- 
ing his friends, have arraigned my judgement, instead 
of seeing that 1 was sensible of all that they could ob- 

It is related of the great Dr. Clarke, that when in 
one of his leisure hours he was unbending himself 
with a few friends in the most playful and frolicksome 
manner, he observed Beau Nash approaching; upon 
which he suddenly stopped ; — " My boys, (said he,) 
let us be grave : here comes a fool." The world, my 
friend, 1 have found to be a great fool, as to that par- 
ticular on which it has become necessary to speak 
very plainly. 1 have, therefore, in this Work b 
more reserved ; and though I tell nothing but the 
truth, I have still kept in my mind that the whole 
truth is not always to be exposed. This, however, J 
have managed so as to occasion no diminution of the 


pleasure which my book should afford ; though malig- 
nity may sometimes be disappointed of its gratifica- 

I am, 

My dear Sir } 

Your much obliged friend, 

And faithful humble servant, 


April 20, 179i. 


I AT last deliver to the world a Work which I 
have long promised, and of which, I am afraid, too high 
expectations have been raised. The delay of its publi- 
cation must be imputed, in a considerable degree, to the 
extraordinary zeal which has been shewn by distinguished 
persons in all quarters to suppltj me with additional in- 
formation concerning its illustrious subject ; resembling 
in this the grateful tribes of ancient nations, of which 
every individual was eager to throzo a stone upon the 
grave of a departed Hero, and thus to share in the pious 
office of erecting an honourable monument to his memory. 
The labour and anxious attention with which I have 
collected and arranged the materials of which these 
volumes are composed, will hardly be conceived by those 
who read them with careless facility. The stretch of 
mind and prompt assiduity by which so many conversa- 
tions were preserved, I myself, at some distance of time, 
contemplate with wonder ; and I must be allowed to sug- 
gest, that the nature of the work, in other respects, 
as it consists of innumerable detached particulars, all 
which, even the most minute, I have spared no pains to 
ascertain with a scrupulous authenticity, has occasioned 
a degree of trouble far beyond that of am/ other species 
of composition. Were I to detail the boohs which I 
have consulted, and the inquiries which I have found it 
necessary to make bij various channels, I should proba- 
bly be thought ridiculouslij ostentatious. let me onhj 
observe, as a specimen of my trouble, that I have some- 
times been obliged to run half over London, in order to 
fix a date correctlij ; which, when I had accomplished, 
I well knew would obtain me no praise, tin ugh a failure 
would have been to my discredit. And ifter all. per- 
haps, hard as it may be, I shall not be surprised if 


omissions or mistakes be pointed out zvith invidious se- 
verity. I have also been extremely careful as to the 
exactness of my quotations ; holding that there is a re- 
spect due to the publick, which should oblige every Au- 
thour to attend to this, and never to presume to introduce 
them zvith,— ^ I think I have read ;" — or—" If I re- 
member right ;" when the originals may be examined. 

I beg leave to express my warmest thanks to those 
who have been pleased to favour me zvith communications 
and advice in the conduct of my Work. But I cannot 
sufficiently acknowledge my obligations to my friend Mr. 
Ma lone, who was so good as to allow me to read to him 
almost the whole of my manuscript, and make such re- 
marks as were greatly for the advantage of the Work ; 
though it is but fair to him to mention, that upon many 
occasions I differed from him, and followed my own 
judgement. I regret exceedingly that I was deprived of 
the benefit of his revision, when not more than one half 
of the book had passed through the press; but after 
having completed his very laborious and admirable edi- 
tion o/'Sh akspeare, for zvhich he generously would ac- 
cept of no other reward but that fame which lie has so 
deservedly obtained, he fulfilled his promise of a long- 
wished for visit to his relations in Ireland ; from 
whence his safe return finibus Atticis is desired by his 
friends here, with all the classical ardour of 'Sic te Diva 
potens Cypri ; for there is no man in whom more elegant 
and worthy qualities are united ; and whose society^ 
therefore, is more valued by those who know him. 

It is painful to me to think, that while I was carrying 
on this Work, several of those to whom it would have 
been most interesting have died. Such melancholy dis- 
appointments we know to be incident to humanity ; but 
we do not feel them the less. Let me particularly la- 
ment the Reverend Thomas Warton, and the Rever- 
end Dr. Adams. Mr. Warton, amidst his variety of 
genius and learning, was an excellent Biographer. His 
contributions to my Collection are highly estimable ; and 
as he had a true relish of my " Tour to the Hebrides," 
/ trust I should now have been gratified zvith a larger 
share of his kind approbation. Dr, Adams, eminent u& 


the Head of a College, as a writer, ami as a most amia- 
ble man, had known Johnson from his early years, and 
was his friend through life. What reason 1 had to hope 
for the countenance of that venerable Gentleman to this 
Work, will appear from -what he wrote to me upon "for- 
mer occasion from Oxford, November 17, 1785 : — 
" Dear Sir, I hazard this letter, not knowing where it 
will find you, to thank you for your very agreeable 
6 Tour/ which I found here on mv return from the 
country, and in which you have depicted our friend 
so perfectly to my fancy, in every attitude, every scene 
and situation, that I have thought myself in the com- 
pany, and of the party almost throughout. It has giv- 
en very general satisfaction ; and those who have found 
most fault with a passage here and there, have agreed 
that they could not help going through, and being en- 
tertained with the whole. I wish, indeed, some few 
gross expressions had been softened, and a few of our 
hero's foibles had been a little more shaded ; but it is 
useful to see the weaknesses incident to great minds ; 
and you have given us Dr. Johnson's authority that in 
history all ought to be told." 

Such a sanction to my faculty of giving a just repre- 
sentation of Dr. Johnson, I could not conceal. Nor 
will I suppress my satisfaction in the consciousness, that 
by recording so considerable a portion of the wisdom and 
wit of " the brightest ornament of the eighteenth cen- 
tury,"* / have largely provided for the instruction and 
entertainment of mankind. 

London, April 20, 1791. 

* See Mr. Malone's Preface to his edition of Shakspeir'- 

VOL. I. 2 


THAT I zv as anxious for the success of a Work 
which had employed much oj' my time and labour, I do 
not wish to conceal : but "whatever doubts I at any time 
entertained, have been entirely removed by the very fa- 
vourable reception with which it has been honoured. 
That reception has excited mi) best exertions to render 
my Book more pet feet ; and in this endeavour I have 
had the assistance not only of some of my particular 
friends, but of many other learned and ingenious men, by 
which I have been enabled to rectify some mistakes, and 
to enrich the Work with many valuable additions. 

In the strangely mixed scenes of human existence, 
our feelings are often at once pleasing and painful. Of 
this truth, the progress of the present Work furnishes 
a striking instance. It was highly gratifying to me 
that my friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom it is 
inscribed, lived to peruse it, and to give the strongest 
testimony to its fidelity ; but before a second edition^ 
which he contributed to improve, could be finished, the 
world has been deprived of that most valuable man ; a 
loss of which the regret will be deep, and lasting, and 
extensive, proportionate to the felicity which he diffused 
through a wide circle of admirers and friends. 

In refecting that the illustrious subject of this Work, 
by being more extensively and intimately kno~wn, howev- 
er elevated before, has risen in the veneration and love 
of mankind, I feel a satisfaction beyond what fame can 
afford. We cannot, indeed, too much or too often ad- 
mire his wonderful powers of mind, when we consider 
that the principal store of wit and wisdom "which this 
Work contains, was not a particular selection from his 
general conversation, but was merely his occasional talk 
at such times as I had the good fortune to be in his com- 


pant/ ; and, without doubt, if his discourse at other 
periods had been collected with the same attention, the 
zvhole tenor of what he uttered would have been found 
equalli) excellent. 

His strong, clear, and ant mated enforcement of r elf 
gion, morality, lotjaltij, and subordination, while it de- 
lights and improves the and the good, will, I trust, 
prove an effectual antidote to that detestable sophistry 
which has been latelij imported from France, under -the 
false name of Philosophy, and with a malignant indus- 
try has been employed against the peace, good order, 
and happiness of society, in our free and prosperous 
countrtf ; but, thanks be to God, without producing the 
pernicious effects which were hoped for bif its propa- 

It seems to me, in mij moments of self complacency, 
that this extensive biographical work, however inferior 
in its nature, mat) in one respect be assimilated to the 
Odyssey. Amidst a thousand entertaining and in- 
structive episodes the Hero is never long out of sight ; 
for theif are all in some degree connected with him ; 
and He, in the whole course of the History, is exhib- 
ited by the Authour for the best advantage of his 
readers : 

— Quid virtus et quid sapientia possit, 
Utile proposuit nobis exemplar Glyssen. 

Should there be any cold-blooded and morose mortals 
who really dislike this Book, I will give them a story 
io apply. When the great Duke of Marlborough, 
accompanied by Lord Cadogan, was one datj recon- 
noitering the army in Flanders, a heavy ram came on, 
and they both called for their cloaks. Lord Cado- 
gan's servant, a good humoured alert lad, brought his 
Lordship's in a minute. The Duke's servant, a lazy 
sulky dog, was so sluggish, that his Grace being wet to 
the skin, reproved him, and had for answer with a 
grunt, " 1 came as fast as I could ;" upon which the 
Duke calmly said, — " Cadogan, / would not for n 
thousand pounds have that fellow 's temper" 


There are some men, I believe, who have, or think 
they have, a very small share of vanity. Such may 
speak of their literary fame in a decorous style of diffi- 
dence. But I confess, that I am so formed by nature 
and by habit, that to restrain the effusion of delight, on 
having obtained such fame, to me would be truly painful. 
Why then should I suppress it ! Why " out of the 
abundance of the heart" should I not speak! Let me 
then mention with a warm, but no insolent exultation, 
that I have been regaled with spontaneous praise of my 
work by many and various persons eminent for their 
rank, learning, talents, and accomplishments ; much of 
which praise I have under their hands to be reposited in 
my archives at Auchinleck. An honourable and rever- 
end friend speaking of the favourable reception of mi/ 
volumes, even in the circles of fashion and elegance, said 
to me, " you have made them all talk Johnson." — Yes, 
I may add, I have Johnson ised the land ; and I trust 
they will not only talk, but think Johnson. 

To enumerate those to whom I have been thus indebt- 
ed, would be tediously ostentatious. I cannot however 
but name one, whose praise is truly valuable, not only on 
account ef his knowledge and abilities, but on account of 
the magnificent, yet dangerous embassy, in which he is 
now employed, which makes every thing that relates to 
him peculiarly interesting. Lord Macartney fa- 
voured me with his own copy of my book, with a num- 
ber of notes, of which I have availed myself . On the 
first leaf I found in his Lordship's hand-writing, an in- 
scription of such high commendation, thai even I. vain 
as I am, cannot prevail on myself to publish it, 

I July 1, 1793.] 


SEVERAL valuable letters, and other curious 
matter, having been communicated to the Author too late 
to be arranged in that chronological order which he had 
endeavoured uniformly to observe in his work, he was 
obliged to introduce them in his Second Edition, bu way 
of Addenda, as commodious ly as he could. In the 
present edition theij have been distributed in their proper 
places. In revising his volumes for a new edition, he 
had pointed out where some of these materials should be 
inserted ; but unfortunately, in the midst of his labours, 
he was seized with a fever, of which, to the great regret 
of all his friends, he died on the 10th of Ma//, 179o. 
All the Notes that he had written in the margin of the 
copy which he had in part revised, are here faithfully 
preserved ; and a few new Notes have been added, prin- 
cipally bif some of those friends to whom the Author in 
the former editions acknowledged his obligations. Those 
subscribed with the letter B, 'were communicated by Dr. 
Burney ; those to which the letters J. B. are annexed, 
by the Rev. J. B. Blakeway, of Shrewsbury, to whom 
Mr. Boswell acknowledged himself indebted fur some 
judicious remarks on the first edition of his work : and 
the letters J. B — .O. are annexed to some remarks 
furnished by the Author' s second son, a Student of Bra- 
zen-Nose College in Oxford. Some valuable observa- 
tions were communicated by James Bindley, Esq. 
First Commissioner in the Stamp-Office, which have been 
acknowledged in their proper places. For all those 
without any signature, Mr. Ma lone is answerable. 
I have only to add, that the proof-sheets of the pres- 
K ent edition not having passeq\ through my hands, lam 
not answerable for any typographical errors that may 


be found in it. Having, however, been printed at the 
very accurate press of Mr. Baldwin, / make no doubt it 
will be found not less perfect than the former edition ; 
the greatest care having been taken, by correctness and 
elegance to do justice to one of the most instructive and 
entertaining works in the English language. 


April 8, 1799. 


IN this edition are inserted some new letters, of 
which the greater part has been obligingly communicated 
by the Reverend Dr. Vyse, Rector of Lambeth. Those 
"written bij Dr. Johnson concerning his mother in her 
last illness, furnish a new proof of his great piety and 
tenderness of heart, and therefore cannot but be accepta- 
ble to the readers of this very popular work. Some ne:c 
no>es also have been added, -which, as well as the obser- 
vations inserted in the third edition, and the letters now 
introduced, are carefully included within crotchets, that 
the author may not be answerable for any thing which 
had not the sanction of his approbation. The remarks 
of his friends are distinguished as formerly, except those 
of Mr. M alone, to which the letter M is now subjoined. 
Those to -which the letter K is affixed, were communi- 
cated by my learned friend, the Reverend Doctor Kear- 
ney, formerly Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dub- 
lin, and now beneficed in the diocese of Rap hoe in Ire- 
land of which he is Archdeacon. 

Of a work which has been before the publick for 
thirteen years with increasing approbation, and of which 
near four thousand copies have been dispersed, it is not 
necessary to sau more ; yet I cannot refrain from adding. 
that, highly as it is now estimated, it will, 1 am confident, 
be still more valued by posterity a century hence, when 
all the actors in the scene shall be numbered with the 
dead ; when the excellent and extraordinary man whose 
wit and wisdom are here recorded, shall be viewed at a 
still greater distance ; and the instruction and enter- 
tainment they afford, will at once produce reverential 
gratitude, admiration, and delight. 

E. M. 

Tune 20, 1804. 


IN this ffth edition some errors of the press, 
which had crept into the text and notes, in consequence 
of repeated impressions, have been corrected. Two let- 
ters written by Dr. Johnson, and several new notes , 
have been added ; bij which, it is hoped, this valuable 
work is still further improved. 


January 1, 1807. 



[N. B. To those which he himself acknowledged is added acknoivl. To thosr 
which may be fully believed to be his from internal evidence, is added intern, evid."] 

1735. ABRIDGEMENT and translation of Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia, acknoivl. 

1 738. Part of a translation of Father Paul Sarpi's History of the Council of 

Trent, acknoivl. 
[N. B. As this work, after some sheets were printed, suddenly stopped, I knov. 
not whether any part of it is now to be found.] 

For the Gentleman s Magazine. 
Preface, intern, evid. 
Life of Father Paul, acknoivl. 

1739. A complete vindication of the Licenser of the Stage from the malicious 

and scandalous aspersions of Mr. Brooke, author of Gustavus Vasa. 
Martnor Norfolciense : or, an Essay on an ancient prophetical inscription 
in monkish rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk : by 
Probus Britannicl t s. ackno-wl. 

For the Gentleman's Magazine. 
Life of Boerhaave. acknoivl. 
Address to the Reader, intern, evid. 

Appeal to the Publick in behalf of the Editor, intern, evid. 
Considerations on the case of Dr. Trapp's Sermons ; a plausible attempt 

to prove that an authour's work may be abridged without injuring hi^ 

property, acknoivl. 

i 740. For the Gentleman s Magazine. 

Preface, intern, evid. 
Life of Admiral Drake, acknoivl. 
Life of Admiral Blake, acknoivl. 
Life of Philip Barretier. acknoivl. 
Essay on Epitaphs, acknoivl. 

1741. For the Gentleman's Magazine. 

Preface, intern, evid. 

A free translation of the Jests of Hierocles, with an introduction, intern. 

Debate on the Humble Petition and Advice of the Rump Parliament to 
Cromwell in 1657, to assume the title of King ; abridged, method- 
ized and digested, intern, evid. 

Translation of Abbe Guyon's Dissertation on the Amazons, intern, evid. 

Translation of Fontenelle's Panegyrick on Dr. Morin. intern, evid. 

* I do not here include his Poetical Works ; for, excepting his Latin Translation of Pope's Messiah, liii Lon- 
don, and his Vanity of Hum^n Wishes imitated from Juvenal ; his Prologue on the opening of Drury Lane 
by Mr. Garrick, and his Irene, a Tragedy, they are very numerous, and in general short ; and I have promised a 
complete edition of them, in which I fhsli vrith the utrnt/sl care ascertain their autbcnlicity a aud illustrate IhLin 
Kith notes and various tendings. 

VOL. I. 3 


1742. For the Gentleman's Magazine. 
Preface, intern, evid. 

Essay on the Account of the Conduct of the Dutche6s of Marlborough. 


An account of the Life of Peter Burman. acknoivl. 

The Life of Sydenham, afterwards prefixed to Dr. Swan's Edition of hie 
Works, acknoivl. 

Proposals for printing Bibliotheca Harleiana, or a Catalogue of the Li- 
brary of the Earl of Oxford, afterwards prefixed to the first Volume 
of that Catalogue, in which the Latin Accounts of the Books were 
written by him. acknoivl. 

Abridgement, entitled, Foreign History, intern, evid. 

Essay on the description of China, from the French of Du Halde. intern. 

1 743. Dedication to Dr. Mead of Dr. James's Medicinal Dictionary, intern, evid. 

For the Gentleman's Magazine. 

Preface, intern, evid. 

Parliamentary Debates under the name of Debates in the Senate of Lilli- 

put, from Nov. 19, 1740, to Feb. 23, 1742-3, inclusive, acknoivl. 

Considerations on the Dispute between Crousaz and Warburton on Pope's 

Essav on Man. intern, evid. 

A Letter announcing that the Life of Mr. Savage was speedily to be pub- 
lished by a person who was favoured with his Confidence, intern, evid. 
Advertisement for Osborne concerning the Harleian Catalogue, intern, evid. 

1744. Life of Richard Savage, acknoivl. 

Preface to the Harleian Miscellany, acknoivl. 

For the Gentleman s Magazine. 
Preface, intern, evid. 

1745. Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with remarks on 

Sir T. H.'s (Sir Thomas Hanmer's) Edition of Shakspeare, and propo- 
sals for a new Edition of that Poet, acknoivl. 

1747. Plan for a Dictionary of the English Language, addressed to Philip 

Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield, acknoivl. 

F.r the Gentleman's Magazine. 

1748. Life of Roscommon, acknoivl. 
Foreign History, November, intern, evid. 

For Mr. Dodsley's PRECEPTOR. t 

Preface, acknoivl. 

Vision of Theodore the Hermit, acknoivl. 

1750. The Rambler, the first Paper of which was published 20th of March this 

year, and the last 17th of March, 1752, the day on which Mrs. 
Johnson died. *acknoivL 

Letter in the General Advertiser to excite the attention of the Publick to 
the Performance of Comus, which was next day to be acted at Drury- 
Lane Playhouse for the Benefit of Milton's Granddaughter, acknoivl. 

Preface and Postscript to Lauder's Pamphlet, entitled, ' An Essay on Mil- 
ton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost.' acknoivl. 

1751. Life of Chevnel, in the Miscellany called " The Student." acknoivl. 
Letter for Lauder, addressed to the Reverend Dr. John Douglas, acknowl- 
edging his Fraud concerning Milton in terms of suitable Contrition. 

Dedication to the Earl of Middlesex, of Mrs. Charlotte Lenox's " Female 
Quixotte." intern, evid. 
j 753. Dedication to John Earl of Orrery, of Shakspeare Illustrated, by Mrs, 
Charlotte Lenox, acknoivl. 

* [This is s. mistake. The last comber cf the Rambler appeared on the fourteenth of March, three da'-; 
■• re Mr: Johnson died. M.3 

of dr. Johnson's prose works. 

During this and the following year he wrote and gave to his much loved 
friend Dr. Bathurst the Papers in the Adventurer, signed T. acinotvL 
•1754. Life of Edw. Cave in the Gentleman's Magazine, acknoivl. 

1755. A Dictionary, with a Grammar and History, of the English Lan- 

guage- acknoivl. 
An account of an Attempt to ascertain the Longitude at Sea, by an exact 
Theory of the Variations of the Magnetical Needle-, with a Table of 
the Variations at the most remarkable Cities in Europe from the year 
1660 to 1860. ackno-wl. This he wrote for Mr. Zachariah Williams, 
an ingenious ancient Welsh Gentleman, father of Mr,. Anna Will- 
iams whom he for many years kindly lodged in his House. It wa, 
published with a Translation into Italian by Signor Baretti. In a 
Copy of it which he presented to the Bodleian Library at Oxford, 
is pasted a character of the late Mr. Zachariah Williams, plainly 
written by Johnson, intern, evid, 

1756. An Abridgement of his Dictionary, aclncwl. 

Several Essays in the Universal Visiter, which there is some difficulty in 
ascertaining. All that are marked with two Asterisks have been as- 
cribed to him, although I am confident from internal Evidence, that 
we should except from these " The Life of Chaucer," " Reflections 
on the State of Portugal," and " An Essay on Architecture :" And 
from the same Evidence I am confident that he wrote " Further 
Thoughts on Agriculture," and " A Dissertation on the State of Lit- 
erature and Authours." The Dissertation on the Epitaphs written 
by Pope he afterwards acknowledged, and added to his " Idler." 

Life of Sir Thomas Browne prefixed to a new Edition of his Christian 
Morals, acknoivl. 

In the Literary Magazine ; or, Universal Review, which began in January 1756 

His Original Essays are, 

The Preliminary Address, intern, evid. 

An introduction to the Political State of Great Britain, intern, evid. 

Remarks on the Militia Bill, intern, evid. 

Observations on his Britannick Majesty's Treaties with the Fmpress of 

Russia and the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel. intern, evid. 
Observations on the Present State of Affairs, intern, evid. 
Memoirs of Frederick III. King of Prussia, intern, evid. 

In the same Magazine his Reviews are of the following Book 

" Birch's History of the Royal Society." — " Browne's Christian Morals.' 
— f Wharton's Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope, Vol. I." — 
" Hampton's Translation of Polybius." — " Sir Isaac Newton's Ar- 
guments in proof of a Deity." — " Borlase's History of the Isles of 
Scilly." — " Home's Experiments on Bleaching." — " Browne's Histo- 
ry of Jamaica." — " Hales on Distilling Sea Waters, Ventilators in 
Ships, and curing an ill Taste in Milk." — " Lucas's Essay on Water,.' 
" Keith's Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops." — " Philosophical Tran-- 
actions, Vol. XLIX." — " Miscellanies by Elizabeth Harrison."— 
" Evans's Map and account of the Middle Colonies in America." — 
" The Cadet, a Military Treatise."—" The Conduct of the Ministry 
relating to the present War impartially examined." intern, evid. 

Mrs. Lenox's Translation of Sully's Memoirs." — " Letter on the Case of 
Admiral Byng." — " Appeal to the People concerning Admiral Byng.' 
" Hanway's Eight Days' Journey, and Essay on Tea." — " Some fur- 
ther Particulars in Relation to' the Case of Admiral Byng, I 
gentleman of Oxford." acknoivl. 

Mr. Jonas Hanway having written an angry Answer to the Review of hi 
Essav on Tea, Johmon in the same Collection made a reply to it 


acinoivl. This is the only Instance, it is believed, when he conde- 
scended to take Notice of any Thing that had been written against 
him ; and here his chief Intention seems to have been to make sport. 

Dedication to the Earl of Rochford of, and Preface to, Mr. Payne's Intro- 
duction to the Game of Draughts, acinoivl. 

Introduction to the London Chronicle, an Evening Paper which still sub- 
sists with deserved credit, acknoivl. 

1757. Speech on the Subject of an address to the Throne after the Expedition to 

Rochefort : delivered by one of his Friends in some publick Meeting: 
it is printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for October 1785. intern. 
The first two Paragraphs of the Preface to Sir William Chambers's De- 
signs of Chinese Buildings, &c. acinoivl. 

1758. The Idler, which began April 5, in this year, and was continued till 

April 5, 1 760. acknoivl. 
An Essay on the Bravery of the English Common Soldiers was added to 
it, when published in Volumes. acknoivL 

1759. Rasselas Prince of Abyssinia, a Tale, acknoivl. 

Advertisement for the Proprietors of the Idler against certain Persons who 
pirated those Papers as they came out singly in a Newspaper called 
the Universal Chronicle or Weekly Gazette, intern, evid. 

1 or Mrs. Charlotte Lenox's English Version of Brumoy, — f A Disserta- 
tion on the Greek Comedy," and the General Conclusion of the Book. 
intern, evid. 

Introduction to the World Displayed, a Collection of Voyages and Trav- 
els, acknoivl. 

Three Letters in the Gazetteer, concerning the best plan for Blackfriars 
Bridge, acknoivl. 
\ 760. Address of the Painters to George III. on his Accession to the Throne. 
intern, evid. 

Dedication of Baretti's Italian and English Dictionary to the Marquis of 
Abreu, then Envoy-Extraordinary from Spain at the Court of Great- 
Britain, intern, evid. 

Review in the Gentleman's Magazine, of M. Tytler's acute and able Vin- 
dication of Mary Queen of Scots, acknoivl. 

Introduction to the Proceedings of the Committee for Cloathing the French 
Prisoners, acinoial. 

1761. Preface to Rolt's Dictionary of Trade and Commerce, acknoivl. 
Corrections and Improvements for Mr. Gwyn the Architect's Pamphlet, 

entitled " Thoughts on the Coronation of George III." acinoivl. 

1762. Dedication to the King, of the Rev. Dr. Kennedy's Complete System of 

Astronomical Chronology, unfolding the Scriptures, Quarto Edition. 

Preface to the Catalogue of the Artist's Exhibition, intern, evid. 
1-7C3. Character of Collins in the Poetical Calendar, published by Fawkes and 

Woty. acknoivl. 
Dedication to the Earl of Shaftesbury of the edition of Roger AschamV 

English Works, published by the Reverend Mr. Bennet, acknoivl. 
The Life of Ascham, also prefixed to that edition, acknoivl. 
Review of Telemachus, a Masque, by the Rev. George Graham, of Eton 

College, in the Critical Review, acknoivl. 
Dedication to the Queen of Mr. Hoole's Translation of Tasso. acinoivl. 
Account of the Detection of the Imposture of the Cock-Lane Ghost, pub- 
lished in the Newspapers and Gentleman's Magazine, acknoivl. 
1 764. Part of a Review of Grainger's " Sugar Cane, a Poem," in the London 

Chronicle, acknoivl. 
Review of Goldsmith's Traveller, a Poem, in the Critical Review, acknoivl. 
1765. The Plays of William Shakspeare, in eight volumes, 8vo. with Note- 


of dr. Johnson's prose works. 21 

1766. The Fountains, a Fairy Talc, in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies. acknoivl. 

1767. Dedication to the King of Mr. Adams's Treatise on the Globes, acknoivl. 

1769. Character of the Reverend Mr. Zachariah Mudge, in the London Chron- 

icle, acknoivl. 

1770. The False Alarm, acknoivl. 

1771. Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland's Islands, acknoivl. 

1772. Defence of a Schoolmaster ; dictated to me for the House of Lords, acknoivl. 
Argument in Support of the Law of Vicious Intromission ; dictated to me 

for the Court of Session in Scotland, acknoivl. 
HIS. Preface to Macbean's " Dictionary of Ancient Geography." ackno-wl. 

Argument in Favour of the Rights of Lay Patrons ; dictated to me for 
the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, acknoivl. 

1774. The Patriot, acknoivl. 

1775. A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, acknoivl. 

Proposals for publishing the Works of Mrs. Charlotte Lenox, in Three 
Volumes Quarto, acknoivl. 

Preface to Baretti's Easy Lessons in Italian and English, intern, mid. 

Taxation no Tyranny ; an Answer to the Resolutions and Address of the 
American Congress, acknoivl. 

Argument on the Case of Dr. Memis ; dictated to me for the Court of 
Sessions in Scotland, acknoivl. 

Argument to prove that the corporation of Stirling was corrupt ; dicta- 
ted to me for the House of Lords, acknoivl. 

1776. Argument in Support of the Right of immediate, and personal reprehen- 

sion from the pulpit ; dictated to me. acknoivl. 
Proposals for publishing an Analysis of the Scotch Celtick Language, by 

the Reverend William Shaw, acknoivl. 
Mil. Dedication to the King of the Posthumous Works of Dr. Pearce, Bishop 

of Rochester, acknoivl. 
Additions to the Life and Character of that Prelate ; prefixed to those 

Works, acknoivl. 
Various Papers and Letters in Favour of the Reverend Dr. Dodd. ackno-w!. 

1 780. Advertisement for his Friend Mr. Thrale to the Worthy Electors of the 

Borough of Southwark. acknoivl. 
The first Paragraph of Mr. Thomas Davies's Life of Garrick. acknoivl. 

1781. Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, to the works of the most eminent 

English Poets ; afterwards published with the Title of the Lives of 

the English Poets, acknoivl. 
Argument on the Importance of the Registration of Deeds ; dictated to 

me for an Election Committee of the House of Commons, acknoivl. 
On the Distinction between Tory and Whig ; dictated to me. acknoivl. 
On Vicarious Punishments, and the great Propitiation for the Sins of the 

World, by Jesus Christ ; dictated to me. acknoivl. 
Argument in favour of Joseph Knight, an African Negro, who claimed 

his Liberty in the Court of Session in Scotland, and obtained it ; 

dictated to me. acknoivl. 
Defence of Mr. Robertson, Printer of the Caledonian Mercury, against 

the Society of Procurators in Edinburgh, for having inserted in his 

Paper a ludicrous Paragraph against them ; demonstrating that it 

was not an injurious Libel ; dictated to me. acknoivl. 

1782. The greatest part, if not the whole, of a Reply, by the Reverend Mr. 

Shaw, to a Person at Edinburgh, of the Name of Clarke, refuting his 
arguments for the authenticity of the Poems published by M 
James Macpherson as Translations from Ossian. intern, evid. 
1784. List of the Authours of the Universal History, deposited in the Briti ! 
Museum, and printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for IVccmli - 
this vpat. achmivl. 


Various Tears. 

Letters to Mrs. Thrale. adnoivl. 

Prayers and Meditations, which he delivered to the Rev. Mr. Strahan, 
enjoining him to publish them, ackno-wl. 

Sermons, left for Publication by John Taylor, LL J). Prebendary of West- 
minster, and given to the World by the Rev. Samuel Hayes, A. M, 
intern, evid* 

Such was the number and variety of the Prose Works of this extraordinary 
man, which I have been able to discover, and am at liberty to mention ; but we 
ought to keep in mind, that there must undoubtedly have been many more which 
are yet concealed ; and we may add to the account, the numerous Letters which 
he wrote, of which a considerable part are yet unpublished. It is hoped that 
those persons in whose possession they araj will favour the world with them. 


* [To this List of the Writings of Dr. Johnson, Mr. Alexander Chalmers, with 
considerable probability, suggests to me that we may add the following : 

In the Gentleman's Magazine. 
1747. Lauder's Proposals for printing the Adamus Exul of Grotius. Vol. 20. 

p. 404. 
1750. Address to the Publick, concerning Miss Williams's Miscellanies. Vol. 20. 

p. 428. 
1753. Preface. 

Notice of Mr. Edward Cave's death, inserted in the last page of the Index. 

In the Literary Magazine. 
1756. " Observations on the foregoing letter ;" i. e. A letter on the American 
Colonies. Vol. 1. p. 66. M.] 

•* After my death I wish no other herald, 
" No other speaker of my living actions, 
" To keep mine honour from corruption, 
" But such an honest chronicler as Griffith."* 

Shakspeare, Henry VIII. 

See Dr. Johnson's letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated Ostick in Skie, September 30, 
1773 : " Boswell writes a regular Journal of our travels, which I think contains 
as much of what I say and do, as of all other occurrences together ; " for such <r 
faithful chronicler is Griffith." 





TO write the Life of him who excelled all 
mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whe- 
ther we consider his extraordinary endowments, or his 
various works, has been equalled by few in any age, 
is an arduous, and may be reckoned in me a presump- 
tuous task. 

Had Dr. Johnson written his own Life, in conformity 
with the opinion which he has given, 1 that every man's 
life may be best written by himself; had he employed 
in the preservation of his own history, that clearness 
of narration and elegance of language in which he has 
embalmed so many eminent persons, the world would 
probably have had the most perfect example of biog- 
raphy that was ever exhibited. But although he at 
different times, in a desultorv manner, committed to 
writing many particulars of the progress of his mind 
and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough 
to form them into a regular composition. Of these 
memorials a few have been preserved ; but the greater 
part was consigned by him to the flames, a few days 
before his death. 

As I had the honour and happiness of enjoying his 
friendship for upwards of twenty years ; as 1 had the 
scheme of writing his life constantly" in view ; as he 
was well apprised of this circumstance, and from time 

1 Idler, No. S4. 
VOL. T. i 


to time obligingly satisfied ray enquiries, by commu- 
nicating- to me the incidents of his early years ; as I 
acquired a facility in recollecting, and was very assidu- 
ous in recording, his conversation, of which the extra- 
ordinary vigour and vivacity constituted one of the first 
features of his character ; and as 1 have spared no pains 
in obtaining materials concerning him, from every 
quarter where 1 could discover that they were to be 
found, and have been favoured with the most liberal 
communications bv his friends ; 1 flatter myself that 
few biographers have entered upon such a work as this, 
with more advantages ; independent of literary abilities, 
in which I am not vain enough to compare myself with 
some great names who have gone before me in this 
kind of writing. 

Since my work was announced, several Lives and 
Memoirs of Dr. Johnson have been published, the most 
voluminous of which is one compiled for the booksellers 
of London, by Sir John Hawkins, Ivnt. - a man, whom, 
during my long intimacy with Dr. Johnson, I never 
saw in his company, 1 think, but once, and I am sure 
not above twice. Johnson might have esteemed him 
for his decent, religious demeanour, and his knowledge 
of books and literary history ; but from the rigid form- 
ality of his manners, it is evident that they never could 
have lived together with companionable ease and fa- 
miliarity ; nor had Sir John Hawkins that nice percep- 
tion which was necessary to mark the finer and less 
obvious parts of Johnson's character. His being ap- 
pointed one of his executors, gave him an opportunity 
of taking possession of such fragments of a diary and 
other papers as were left ; of which, before delivering 

2 The greatest part of this book was written while Sir John Hawkins was 
alive ; and I avow, that one object of my strictures was to make him feel some 
compunction for his illiberal treatment of Dr. Johnson. Since his decease, I have 
suppressed several of my remarks upon his work. But though I would not ' war 
with the dead" offensively, I think it necessary to be strenuous in defence of my 
illustrious friend, which I cannot be, without strong animadversions upon a writer 
who has greatly injured him. Let me add, that though I doubt I should not have 
been very prompt to gratify Sir John Hawkins with any compliment in his life- 
time, I do now frankly acknowledge, that, in my opinion, his volume, howevc 
inadequate and improper as a life of Dr. Johnson, and however discredited by 
unpardonable inaccuracies in other respects, contains a collection of curious anec- 
dotes and observations, which few men but its author could have brought together 


them up to the residuary legatee, whose property the^ 
were, he endeavoured to extract the substance. In 
this he has not been very successful, as I have found 
upon a perusal of those papers, which have been sinc< 
trail sl'iiied to me. Sir John Hawkins's ponderous 
labours, 1 must acknowledge, exhibit a farrago, o 
which a considerable portion is not devoid of entertain- 
ment to the lovers of literary gossiping ; but besid< s its 
being swelled out with long unnecessary extracts from 
various works, (even one of several leaves fromOsborm 'g 
Harleian Catalogue, and those not compiled by John- 
son, but by Oldys,) a very small part of it relates to 
the person who is the subject of the book ; and, in 
that, there is such an inaccuracy in the statement of 
facts, as in so solemn an authour is hardly excusable, 
and certainly makes his narrative very unsatisfactory. 
But what is still worse, there is throughout the whole 
of it a dark uncharitable cast, bv which the most unfa- 
vourable construction is put upon almost every circum- 
stance in the character and conduct of my illustrious 
friend ; who, I trust, will, by a true and fair delineation, 
be vindicated both from the injurious misrepresenta- 
tions of this authour, and from the slighter aspersions 
of a lady who once lived in qreat intimacy with him. 

There is, in the British Museum, a letter from Bishop 
Warburton to Or. Birch, on the subject of biography; 
which, though 1 am aware it may expose me to a charge 
of artfully raising the value of my own work, by con- 
trasting it with that of which 1 have spoken, is so well 
conceived and expressed, that i cannot refrain from 
here inserting it : 

" I shall endeavour, (says Dr. Warburton,) to 
give you what satisfaction I can in any thing you wanl 
to be satisfied in any subject of Milton, and am ex- 
tremely glad you intend to write his life. Almost all 
the life-writers we have had before Toland and l)es- 
maiseaux, are indeed strange insipid creatures : and yej 
I had rather read the worst of them, than be obliged to 
go through with this of Milton's, or the other's life of 
Boileau, where there is such a dull heavy sue< ession 


of long quotations of disinteresting passages, that it 
makes their method quite nauseous. But the verbose, 
tasteless French man seems to lay it down as a princi- 
ple, that every life must be a book, and what's worse, 
it proves a book without a life ; for what do we know 
of Boileau, after all his tedious stuff 1 You are the only 
one, (and 1 speak it without a compliment,) that by the 
vigour of your stile and sentiments, and the real im- 
portance of your materials, have the art, (which one 
would imagine no one could have missed,) of adding 
agreements to the most agreeable subject in the world, 
which is literary history." 3 
" Nov. 24, 1737." 

Instead of melting down my materials into one mass, 
and constantly speaking in my own person, by which I 
might have appeared to have more merit in the execu- 
tion of the work, I have resolved to adopt and enlarge 
upon the excellent plan of Mr. Mason, in his Memoirs 
of Gray. Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, 
connect, and supply, I furnish it to the best of my 
abilities ; but in the chronological series of Johnson's 
life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, 
I produce, wherever it is in my power, his own min- 
utes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this 
mode is more lively, and will make my readers better 
acquainted with him, than even most of those were 
who actually knew him, but could know him only par- 
tially ; whereas there is here an accumulation of intel- 
ligence from various points, by which his character is 
more fully understood and illustrated. 

Indeed I cannot conceive a more perfect mode of 
writing any man's life, than not only relating all the 
most important events of it in their order, but inter- 
weaving what he privately wrote, and said, and thought ; 
by which mankind are enabled as it were to see him 
live, and to " live o'er each scene" with him, as he ac- 
tually advanced through the several stages of his life. 
Had his other friends been as diligent and ardent as I 

3 Brit. Mus. 4320, Ayscough's Catal. Sloane MSS.' 


was, lie might have been almost entirely preserved. 
As it is, 1 will venture to say that he will be seen in 
this work more completely than any man who has ever 
yet lived. 

And he will be seen as he really was ; tor \ prof 3S 
to write, not his panegyrick, which must be all praise, 
but his Lite ; which, great and good as he was, must 
not be supposed to be entirely perfect. To he as he 
was, is indeed subject of panegyrick enough to am 
man in this state of being ; but in every picture there 
should be shade as well as light, and when 1 delineate 
him without reserve, 1 do what he himself recommend- 
ed, both by his precept and his example. 

" If the biographer writes from personal knowledge, 
and makes haste to gratify the publick curiosity, there 
is danger lest his interest, his fear, his gratitude, or his 
tenderness, overpower his fidelity, and tempt him to 
conceal, if not to invent. There are many who think 
it an act of piety to hide the faults or failings of their 
friends, even when thev can no longer suffer bv their 
detection ; we therefore see whole ranks of characters 
adorned with uniform panegyrick, and not to be known 
from one another but by extrinsick and casual circum- 
stances. ' Let me remember, (says Hale.) when 1 find 
myself inclined to pity a criminal, that there is likewise 
a pity due to the country/ If we owe regard to the 
memory of the dead, there is yet more respect to be 
paid to knowledge, to virtue, and to truth."* 

What I consider as the peculiar value of the follow- 
ing work, is, the quantity it contains of Johnson's con- 
versation ; which is universally acknowledged to have 
been eminently instructive and entertaining ; and of 
which the specimens that I have given upon a former 
occasion, have been received with so much approbation, 
that I have good grounds for supposing that the world 
will not be indifferent to more ample communications 
of a similar nature. 

That the conversation of a celebrated man, if I 
talents have been exerted in conversation, will best 
display his character, is, 1 trust, too well established in 

J Rambler, No. CO, 


the judgement of mankind, to be at all shaken by a 
sneering observation of Mr. Mason, in his Memoirs of 
Mr. William Whitehead, in which there is literally no 
Life, but a mere dry narrative of facts. 1 do not think 
it was quite necessary to attempt a depreciation of what 
is universally esteemed, because it was not to be found 
in the immediate object of the ingenious writer's pen ; 
for in truth, from a man so still and so tame, as to be 
contented to pass many years as the domestick com= 
pan ion of a superanuated lord and lady, conversation 
could no more be expected, than from a Chinese man- 
darin on a chimney-piece, or the fantastick figures on 
a gilt leather skreen. 

if authority be required, let us appeal to Plutarch, 
the prince of ancient biographers. Ovre ra£ hrifw&XTou 

TT^ZyiTl 7T<X.VTW<; tVtfl WhU7lG «f£T>7f H XtXlUOCt;, (X.KKX 7TPXyjUCt pfCfYV 
TTOhKOMK, XOCl ^UOC, KM TTOLKtlX Tl$ i[A$0l.<7lY JjSoUf lit 01 WW fA.UKKCV t] 

(ttap^a; juufionx.fci, 7rapot.T<x%us ai {/.iyirsci, x«/ 7roKwfKioc tt'okiuv. " Nor 

is it always in the most distinguished achievements 
that men's virtues or vices may be best discerned ; but 
very often an action of small note, a short saying, or a 
jest, shall distinguish a person's real character more than 
the greatest sieges, or the most important battles." 5 

To this may be added the sentiments of the very 
man whose life 1 am about to exhibit. " The business 
of the biographer is often to pass slig;htly over those 
performances and incidents which produce vulgar great- 
ness, to lead the thoughts into domestick privacies, and 
display the minute details of daily life, where exteriour 
appendages are cast aside, and men excel each other 
only by prudence and by virtue. The account of 
Thuanus is with great propriety said by its authour to 
have been written, that it might lay open to posterity 
the private and familiar character of that man, cujus 
ingenium et candor em ex ipsius script is sunt olim semper 
miraturi, whose candour and genius will to the end of 
time be by his writings preserved in admiration. 

" There are many invisible circumstances, which 
whether we read as enquirers after natural or moral 
knowledge, whether we intend to enlarge our science 

5 Plutarch's Life of Alexander.— Langhorne's Translation, 


or increase our virtue, are more important than publick 
occurrences. Thus Sallust, the great master of nature 
has not forsrot in his account of Catiline to remark, that 

his walk was now quick, and again slow, ;is an indication 
of -a mind revolving with violent commotion, Thus 
the story of Melancthon affords a striking lecture on 
the value of time, by informing us, that when he had 
made an appointment, he expected not only the hour, 
but the minute to be fixed, that the day might not run 
out in the idleness of suspense ; and all the plans and 
enterprises of De Wit are now of less importance to the 
world than that part of his personal character, which 
represents him as careful of his health, and negligent 
of his life. 

" But biography has often been allotted to writers. 
who seem very little acquainted with the nature of 
their task, or very negligent about the performance. 
They rarely afford any other account than might be 
collected from publick papers, but imagine themselves 
writing a life, when they exhibit a chronological series 
of actions or preferments ; and have so little regard to 
the manners or behaviour of their heroes, that more 
knowledge may be gained of a man's real character, by 
a short conversation with one of his servants, than from 
a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedi- 
gree, and ended with his funeral. 

" There are indeed, some natural reasons why thesi 
narratives are often written by such as were not likely 
to give much instruction or delight, and why most ac- 
counts of particular persons are barren ami useless. If 
a life be delayed till interest and envy are at an end. 
we may hope for impartiality, but must expect little 
intelligence ; for the incidents which give excellent < 
to biography are of a volatile and evanescent kind, such 
as soon escape the memory, and are rarely transmitted 
by tradition. We know how few can pourtray a livii 
acquaintance, except by his most prominent and ob- 
servable particularities, and the grosser features of his 
mind; and it may be easily imagined how much oi 
this little knowledge may be h*f in imparting it", and 


how soon a succession of copies will lose all resem- 
blance of the original/' 6 

I am fully aware of the objections which may be 
made to the minuteness on some occasions of my detail 
of Johnson's conversation, and how happily it is adapted 
for the petty exercise of ridicule, by men of superficial 
understanding, and ludicrous fancy ; but I remain firm 
and confident in my opinion, that minute particulars 
are frequently characteristick,and always amusing, when 
they relate to a distinguished man. I am therefore ex- 
ceedingly unwilling that any thing, however slight, 
which my illustrious friend thought it worth his while 
to express, with any degree of point, should perish. 
For this almost superstitious reverence, I have found 
very old and venerable authority, quoted by our great 
modern prelate, Seeker, in whose tenth sermon there is 
the following passage : 

" Rabbi David Knnchi, a noted Jewish Commentator, 
who lived about five hundred years ago, explains that 
passage in the first Psalm, His leaf also shall not ivither, 
from Rabbins yet older than himself, thus : That even 
the idle talk, so he expresses it, of a good man ought to 
he regarded; the most superfluous things he saith are 
always of some value. And other ancient authours 
have the same phrase, nearly in the same sense." 

Of one thing 1 am certain, that considering how 
highly the small portion which we have of the table-talk 
and other anecdotes of our celebrated writers is valued, 
and how earnestly it is regretted that we have not more, 
I am justified in preserving rather too many of Johnson's 
sayings, than too few ; especially as from the diversity 
of dispositions it cannot be known with certainty be- 
forehand, whether what may seem trifling to some, and 
perhaps to the collector himself, may not be most agree- 
able to many ; and the greater number that an authour 
can please in any degree, the more pleasure does there 
arise to a benevolent mind. 

To those who are weak enough to think this a de- 
grading task, and the time and labour which have been 
devoted to it misemployed, I shall content myself with 

5 Rambler, No. 60r 


opposing the authority of the greatest man of any age, 1709. 
Julius Cesar, of whom Bacon observes, that ,% in his ^'^ 
book of Apophthegms which he collected, we see that 
he esteemed it more honour to make himself but a pair 

of tables, to take the wise and pithy words of others, 
than to have every word of his own to be made an 
apophthegm or an oracle." 7 

Having- said thus much bv way of introduction, I 

commit the following pages to the candour of the Pub- 

Samuel Johnson was born at Lichfield, in Stafford- 
shire, on the 18th of September, N. S. 1709 ; and his 
initiation into the Christian church was not delayed ; 
for his baptism is recorded, in the register of St. Mary's 
parish in that city, to have been performed on the day 
of his birth : His father is there stiled Gentleman, a cir- 
cumstance of which an ignorant panegyrist has praised 
him for not being proud ; when the truth is, that the 
appellation of Gentleman, though now lost in the indis- 
criminate assumption oi Esquire, was commonly taken 
bv those who could not boast of gentility, llis father 
was Michael Johnson, a native of Derbyshire, of ob- 
scure extraction, who settled in Lichfield as a booksel- 
ler and stationer. His mother was Sarah Lord, de- 
scended of an ancient race of substantial yeomanry in 
Warwickshire. They were well advanced in years 
when they married, and never had more than two chil- 
dren, both sons; Samuel, their first-born, who lived to 
be the illustrious character whose various excellence I 
am to endeavour to record, and Nathanael, who died 
in his twenty-fifth year.* 

Mr. Michael Johnson was a man of a large and ro- 
bust body, and of a strong and active mind ; yet, as in 
the most solid rocks veins of unsound substance are 

' Bacon's Advancement of Learning, Book I. 

* [Nathanael was born in 1712, and died in 1737. Their father, Michael John- 
son, was born at Cubley in Derbyshire, in 1656, and died at Lichfield in 1731, at 
the age of seventy-six. Sarah Ford, his wife, was born at King's-Norton, in the 
county of Warwick, m 1669, and died at Lichfield, in January 17 59, lb her nioe- 
tieth year. M.] 

vol, i. 5 


often discovered, there was in him a mixture of that 
disease, the nature of which eludes the most minute 
enquiry, though the effects are well known to be a 
weariness of life, an unconcern about those things 
which agitate the greater part of mankind, and a gen- 
eral sensation of gloomy wretchedness. From him then 
his son inherited, with some other qualities, " a vile 
melancholy," which in his too strong expression of any 
disturbance of the mind, " made him mad all his life, 
at least not sober." 3 Michael was, however, forced by 
the narrowness of his circumstances to be very diligent 
in business, not only in his shop, but by occasionally 
resorting to several towns in the neighbourhood, 9 some 
of which were at a considerable distance from Lichfield. 
At that time booksellers' shops in the provincial towns 
of England, were verv rare, so that there was not one 
even in Birmingham, in which town old Mr. Johnson 
used to open a shop every market-day. lie was a 
pretty good Latin scholar, and a citizen so creditable 
as to be made one of the magistrates of Lichfield ; 
and, being a man of good sense, and skill in his trade, 
he acquired a reasonable share of wealth, of which 
however he afterwards lost the greatest part, by engag- 
ing unsuccessfully in a manufacture of parchment. He 
was a zealous high-church man and royalist, and retain- 
ed his attachment to the unfortunate house of Stuart, 
though he reconciled himself, bv casuistical arguments 
of expediency and necessity, to take the oaths imposed 
by the prevailing power. 

There is a circumstance in his life somewhat roman- 
tick, but so well authenticated, that 1 shall not omit it. 
A young woman of Leek, in Staffordshire, while he 
served his apprenticeship there, conceived a violent 
passion for him ; and though it met with no favourable 

3 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 213. 

" Extract of a Letter, dated " Trentham, St. Peter's day, 1716," written by the 
Rev. George Plaxton, Chaplain at that time to .Lord Gower, which may serve to 
show the high estimation in which the Father of our great Moralist was held : — 
" Johnson, the Lichfield Librarian, is now here ; he propagates learning all over this 
diocese, and advanceth knowledge to its just height ; all the Clergy here are his 
Pupils, and suck all they have from him ; Allen cannot make a warrant without 
his precedent, nor eur quondam John Evans draw a recognizance sine directionc 
Mkhadh. Gentleman's Magazine, October, 17f»l . 


return, followed him to Lichfield, where she took lodg- ) ' 1 -" 
hags opposite to the house in which he lived, and in-jg^ 
dulged Iht hopeless flame. When he was informed it so preyed upon her mind that her life was in 
danger, lie with a generous humanity went to her and 
offered t<> marry her, but it was then too late : Her 
vital power was exhausted ; and she actually exhibited 
one of the very rare instances of dying for love. She 
was buried in the cathedral of Lichfield ; and he, with 
a tender regard, placed a stone over her grave with this 
inscription : 

Here lies the body of 

Airs. Elizabeth Blank y, a stranger: 

She departed this life 

90 of September, 1694. 

Johnson's mother was a woman of distinguished un- 
derstanding.* 1 asked his old school-fellow, Mr. I lee- 
tor, surgeon, of Birmingham, if she was not vain of her 
son. He said, " she had too much good sense to be 
vain, but she knew her son's value." Her piety was 
not inferiour to her understanding ; and to her must be 
ascribed those early impressions of religion upon the 
mind of her son, from which the world afterwards de- 
rived so much benefit. He told me, that he remem- 
bered distinctly having had the first notice <>t" Heaven, 
• 4 a place to which good people went," and hell, " a 

[It was not, however, much cultivated, as we may collect from Dr. Johnson'^ 
own account of his early years, published by R. Phillips, 8vo. 1805, a work un- 
doubtedly authentick, and which, though short, is curious, and well worthy o' 
perusal. " My father and mother (says Johnson) had not much happiness from 
each other. They seldom conversed ; for my father could not bear to talk of hi 
affairs ; and my mother, being unacquainted -with books, cared not to talk of any thing 
else. Had my mother been more literate, they had been better companions. She 
might have sometimes introduced her unwelcome topick with more success, il she 
could have diversified her conversation. Of business she had no distinct concep- 
tion ; and therefore her discourse was composed only of complaint, fear, and sus- 
picion. Neither of them ever tried to calculate the prolits of trade, or the ex- 
pences of living. My mother concluded that we were poor, because we lost by 
some of our trades ; but the truth was, that my father, having in the early part of 
his life contracted debts, never had trade sufficient to enable him to pay them, 
and to maintain his family : he got something, but not enough. It was not :ii 
about 1768, that I thought to calculate the returns of my father's trade, and DJ 
b estimate his probable profits. This my parents never did." 


place to which bad people went," communicated to 
him by her, when a little child in bed with her ; and 
that it might be the better fixed in his memory, she 
sent him to repeat it to Thomas Jackson, their man- 
servant ; he not being in the way, this was not done ; 
but there was no occasion for any artificial aid for its 

In following so very eminent a man from his cradle 
to his grave, every minute particular, which can throw 
light on the progress of his mind, is interesting. That 
he was remarkable, even in his earliest years, may 
easily be supposed ; for to use his own words in his 
Life of Sydenham, " That the strength of his under- 
standing, the accuracy of his discernment, and the 
ardour of his curiosity, might have been remarked from 
his infancy, by a diligent observer, there is no reason to 
doubt. For, there is no instance of any man, whose 
history has been minutely related, that did not in every 
part of life discover the same proportion of intellectual 

In all such investigations it is certainly unwise to pay 
too much attention to incidents which the credulous 
relate with eager satisfaction, and the more scrupulous 
or witty enquirer considers only as topicks of ridicule : 
Yet there is a traditional story of the infant Hercules 
of toryism, so curiously characteristick, that I shall not 
withhold it. It was communicated to me in a letter 
from Miss Mary Adye, of Lichfield. 

" When Dr. Sacheverel was at Lichfield, Johnson was 
not quite three years old. My grandfather Hammond 
observed him at the cathedral perched upon his father's 
shoulders, listening and gaping at the much celebrated 
preacher. Mr. Hammond asked Mr. Johnson how he 
could possibly think of bringing such an infant to 
church, and in the midst of so great a croud. He an- 
swered, because it was impossible to keep him at home ; 
for, young as he was, he believed he had caught the 
pubiick spirit and zeal for Sacheverel, and would have 
staid for ever in the> satisfied with beholding 


Nor can 1 omit a little instance of that jealous inde- *712. 
pendenee of spirit, and impetuosity of temper, which ^,^~ 
never forsook him. The fact was acknowledged to me 3. 
by himself, upon the authority of his mother. ( )ne day, 
when the servant who used to be sent to school to 
conduct him home, had not come in time, he set out by 
himself, though he was then so near-sighted, that he was 
obliged to stoop down on his hands and knees to take a 
view of the kennel before he ventured to step over it. 
His school-mistress, afraid that he might miss his way, 
or fall into the kennel, or be run over bv a cart, fol- 
lowed him at some distance. He happened to turn 
about and perceive her. Feeling her careful attention 
as an insult to his manliness, he ran back to her in a 
rage, and beat her, as well as his strength would 

Of the power of his memory, for which he was all 
his life eminent to a decree almost incredible, the fol- 
lowing early instance w r as told me in his presence at 
Lichfield, in 1776, by his step-daughter, Mrs. Lucy 
Porter, as related to her by his mother. When he was 
a child in petticoats, and had learnt to read, Mrs. John- 
son one morning put the common prayer-book into his 
hands, pointed to the collect for the day, and said, 
" Sam, you must get this by heart." She went up 
stairs, leaving him to study it : but by the time she 
had reached the second floor, she heard him following 
her. " What's the matter V said she. " I can say 
it," he replied ; and repeated it distinctly, though he 
could not have read it more than twice. 

But there has been another story of his infant pre- 
cocity generally circulated, and generally believed, the 
truth of which 1 am to refute upon his own authority. 
It is told, 1 that, when a child of three years old, he 
chanced to tread upon a duckling, the eleventh of a 
brood, and killed it ; upon which, it is said, he dicta- 
ted to his mother the following epitaph ; 

1 Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson by Hester Lynch Piozzi, p. 11. Life of Dr. John- 
son bv Sir John Ha'wkins, p. »> 


1713. «« Here lies good master duck, 

jgt"^ Whom Samuel .Johnson trod on ; 

3. If it had liv'd, it had been good luck, 

For then we'd had an odd one." 

There is surely internal evidence that this little com- 
position combines in it, what no child of three years 
old could produce, without an extension of its facul- 
ties by immediate inspiration ; yet Mrs. Lucy Porter, 
Dr. Johnson's step-daughter, positively maintained to 
me, in his presence, that there could be no doubt of 
the truth of this anecdote, for she had heard it from 
his mother. So difficult is it to obtain an authentick 
relation of facts, and such authority may there be for 
errour ; for he assured me, that his father made the 
verses, and wished to pass them for his child's. He 
added, " my father was a foolish old man ; that is to 
say, foolish in talking of his children." % 

Young Johnson had the misfortune to be much af- 
flicted with the scrophula, or king's-evil, which dis- 
figured a countenance naturally well formed, and hurt 
his visual nerves so much, that he did not see at all 
with one of his eyes, though its appearance was little 
different from that of the other. There is amongst his 
prayers, one inscribed " When my eye was restored 
to its use"* which ascertains a defect that manv of his 

2 This anecdote of the duck, though disproved by internal and external evi- 
dence, has nevertheless, upon supposition of its truth, been made the foundation of 
the following ingenious and fanciful reflections of Miss Seward, amongst the com- 
munications concerning Dr. Johnson with which she has been pleased to favour 
me : — f These infant numbers contain the seeds of those propensities which through 
his life so strongly marked his character, of that poetick talent which afterwards 
bore such rich and plentiful fruits ; for, excepting his orthographick works, every 
thing which Dr. Johnson wrote was poetry, whose essence consists not in numbers, 
or in jingle, but in the strength and glow of a fancy, to which all the stores of nature 
and of art stand in prompt administration ; and in an eloquence which conveys their 
blended illustrations in a language ' more tuneable than needs or rhyme or verse to 
add more harmony.' 

" The above little verses also shew that superstitious hias which 'grew with Ids 
growth, and strengthened with his strength,' and, of late years particularly, injured 
his happiness, by presenting to him the gloomy side of religion, rather than that 
bright and cheering one which gilds the period of closing life, with the light of pious 

This is so beautifully imagined, that I would not suppress it. many 
other theories, it is deduced from a supposed fact, which is, indeed, a fiction. 

1 Prayers and Meditations, p. 2Y. 


friends knew he had, though 1 never perceived it. 4 I 
supposed him to be only near sighted ; and indeed I 
must observe, that in no other respect could 1 discern 
any detect in his vision ; on the contrary, the force of 
his attention and perceptive quickness made him see 
and distinguish all manner of objects, whether of na- 
ture or of art, with a nicety that is rarely to be found. 
When he and i were travelling in the Highlands of 
Scotland, and I pointed out to him a mountain which 
I observed resembled a cone, he corrected my inaccu- 
racy, by shewing me, that it was indeed pointed at 
the top, but that one side of it was larger than the 
other. And the ladies with whom he was acrjuainted 
agree, that no man was more nicely and minutely crit- 
ical in the elegance of female dress. \\ lien 1 found 
that he saw the romantick beauties of Islam, in Derby- 
shire, much better than I did, I told him that he re- 
sembled an able performer upon a bad instrument. 
How false and contemptible then are all the remarks 
which have been made to the prejudice either of his 
candour or of his philosophy, founded upon a suppo- 
sition that he was almost blind. It has been said, 
that he contracted this grievous maladv from his 
nurse. 5 His mother, yielding to the superstitious no- 
tion, which, it is wonderful to think, prevailed so long 
in this country, as to the virtue of the regal touch : a 
notion, which our kings encouraged, and to which a 
man of such enquiry and such judgement as Carte 
could give credit ; carried him to London, where he 
was actually touched by Queen Anne. 6 Mrs. John- 
son indeed, as Mr. Hector informed me. acted by the 

4 [Speaking himself of the imperfection of one of his eyes, he said to Dr. Burney, 
" the dog was never good for much." B.] 

[Such was the opinion of Dr. Swinfen. Johnson's eyes were very soon dis- 
covered to be bad, and to relieve them, an issue was cut in his left arm. At the 
end of ten weeks from his birth, he was taken home from hia nurse, " a poor di_- 
eased infant, almost blind." See a work, already quoted, entitled " An Accou 
of the Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson, from his birth to las eleventh year ; written by 
himself." 8vo. 1805. M.] 

' [He was only thirty months old, when he was tak< ;i to London to be touch- 
ed for the evil. During this visit, he tells us, his mother purchased for him a small 
silver cup and spoon. " The cup," he affectingly adds " was one of the last pieces of 
plate which dear Tettv sold in our distress. I have now the spoon. She bought at 
the same time two tea-spoon", and till my manh - ; ' ■ ' j •' ■ " . 


advice of the celebrated Sir John Floyer, then a physi- 
cian in Lichfield. Johnson used to talk of this very 
frankly ; and Mrs. Piozzi has preserved his very pic- 
turesque description of the scene, as it remained upon 
his fancy. Being asked if he could remember Queen 
Anne, — " He had (he said) a confused, but somehow 
a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds, 
and a long black hood." 7 This touch, however, was 
without any effect. I ventured to say to him, in allu- 
sion to the political principles in which he was edu- 
cated, and of which he ever retained some odour, that 
" his mother had not carried him far enough ; she should 
have taken him to Rome." 

He was first taught to read English by Dame Oliver, 
a widow, who kept a school for young children in Lich- 
field. He told me she could read the black letter, and 
asked him to borrow for her, from his father, a bible in 
that character. When he was going to Oxford, she 
came to take leave of him, brought him, in the simplicity 
of her kindness, a present of gingerbread, and said he 
was the best scholar she ever had. He delighted in 
mentioning this early compliment : adding, with a smile, 
that " this was as high a proof of his merit as he could 
conceive." His next instructor in English was a mas- 
ter, whom, when he spoke ot him to me, he familiarly 
called Tom I3rown, who, said he, " published a spell- 
ing-book, and dedicated it to the Universe ; but, I 
fear, no copy of it can now be had." 

He began to learn Latin with Mr. Hawkins, usher, 
or under-master of Lichfield school, " a man (said he) 
very skilful in his little way." With him he continu- 
ed two years, and then rose to be under the care of 
Mr. Hunter, the head-master, who, according to his 
account. " was very severe, and wrong-headedly severe. 
He used (said he) to beat us unmercifully ; and he did 
not distinguish between ignorance and negligence ; for 
he would beat a boy equally for not knowing a thing, 
as for neglecting to know it. He would ask a boy a 
question, and if he did not answer it, he would beai 
him, without considering whether he had an opporfu 

7 Anecdotes, p. l^ 


nitv of knowing how to answer it. For instance, he 
would call up a boy and ask him Latin for a candlestick, 
which the boy could not expect to be asked. Now, 
Sir, if a boy could answer every question, there would 
be no need of a master to teach him." 

It is, however, but justice to the memory of Mr. 
Hunter to mention, that though he might err in being 
too severe, the school of Lichfield was very respectable 
in his time. The late Dr. Taylor, Prebendary of VV est- 
minster, who was educated under him, told me, that 
" he was an excellent master, and that his ushers were 
most of them men of eminence ; that llolbrook, one of 
the most ingenious men, best scholars, and best preach- 
ers of his age, was usher during the greatest part of the 
time that Johnson was at school. Then came Hague, 
of whom as much might be said, with the addition that 
he was an elegant poet. Hague was succeeded by 
Green, afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, whose character 
in the learned world is well known. In the same form 
with Johnson was Congreve, who afterwards became 
chaplain to Archbishop Boulter, and by that connection 
obtained good preferment in Ireland. He was a younger 
son of the ancient family of Congreve, in Staffordshire, 
of which the poet was a branch. 1 i is brother sold the 
estate. There was also Lowe, afterwards Canon of 

Indeed Johnson was very sensible how much he owed 
to Mr. Hunter. Mr. Langton one day asked him how he 
had acquired so accurate a knowledge of Latin, in which, 
1 believe, he was exceeded by no man of his time ; he 
said, " My master whipt me very well. Without that, 
Sir, I should have done nothing." He told Mr. Lang- 
ton, that while Hunter was flogging his boys unmerci- 
fully, he used to say, " And this 1 do to save you from 
the gallows." Johnson, upon all occasions, expressed 
his approbation of enforcing instruction by means ot the 
rod. 8 " I would rather (said he) have the rod to be the 
general terrour to all, to make them learn, than tell a 
child, if you do thus, or thus, you will be more esteem- 

8 [Johnson's observations to Dr. Rose, on this subject, may be found in a sub- 
sequent part of this work. See vol. ii. near the eiul of the year 1 775. B.] 

vol. r. 6' 


ed than your brothers or sisters. The rod produces an 
effect which terminates in itself. A child is afraid of 
being whipped, and gets his task, and there's an end 
on't; whereas, by exciting emulation and comparisons 
of superiority, you lay the foundation of lasting mis- 
chief; you make brothers and sisters hate each other." 
When Johnson saw some youn°' ladies in Lincoln- 
shire who were remarkably well behaved, owing to their 
mother's strict discipline and severe correction, he ex- 
claimed, in one of Shakspeare's lines a little varied, 9 
" Rod, I will honour thee lor this thy duty." 
That superiority over his fellows, which he maintain- 
ed with so much dignity in his march through life, was 
not assumed from vanity and ostentation, but was the 
natural and constant effect of those extraordinary pow- 
ers of mind, of which he could not but be conscious by 
comparison ; the intellectual difference, which in other 
cases of comparison of characters, is often a matter of 
undecided contest, being as clear in his case as the su- 
periority of stature in some men above others. John- 
son did not strut or stand on tip-toe ; he only did not 
stoop. From his earliest years, his superiority was per- 
Ceived and acknowledged. He was from the beginning 
A*«£ aylfuv, a king of men. His school-fellow, Mr. 
Hector, has obligingly furnished me with many partic- 
ulars of his boyish days ; and assured me that he never 
knew him corrected at school, but for talking and di- 
verting other boys from their business. He seemed to 
Jearn by intuition ; for though indolence and procrasti- 
nation were inherent in his constitution, whenever he 
made an exertion he did more than any one else. In 
short, he is a memorable instance of what has been of- 
ten observed, that the boy is the man in miniature : and 
that the distinguishing characteristicks of each individ- 
ual are the same, through the whole course of life. 
His favourites used to receive very liberal assistance 
from him ; and such was the submission and deference 
with which he was treated, such the desire to obtain 
his regard, that three of the boys, of whom Mr. Hector 

[More than a little. The line is in King Henry vi. Part ii. act. iv. sc. last : 
" Sword, I will hallow thee for this thy deed." M.] 


was sometimes one, used to come in the morning as bis 
humble attendants, and carry him to school. One in 
the middle stooped, while lie sat upon his back, and on< 
on each side supported him ; and thus he was home 
triumphant. Such a proof of the early predominance 
of intellectual vigour is very remarkable, and does hon- 
our to human nature. — Talking to me once himself of 
his being much distinguished at school, he told me, 
;t they never thought to raise me by comparing me to 
any one ; they never said, Johnson is as good a schol- 
ar as such a one ; but such a one is as good a scholar 
as Johnson ; and this was said but of one, but of Lowe ; 
and I do not think he was as good a scholar." 

He discovered a great ambition to excel, which 
reused him to counteract his indolence. He was un- 
commonly inquisitive ; and his memory was so tena- 
cious, that he never forgot any thing that he either heard 
or read. Mr. Hector remembers having recited to 
him eighteen verses, which, after a little pause, hi 
repeated verbatim, varying only one epithet, by which 
he improved the line. 

He never joined with the other boys in their ordinary 
diversions : his only amusement was in winter, when 
he took a pleasure in being drawn upon the ice by a 
boy barefooted, who pulled him along by a garter fixed 
round him ; no very easy operation, as his size was re 
markably large. His defective sight, indeed, prevented 
him from enjoying the common sports ; and he once 
pleasantly remarked to me, " how wonderfully well he 
had contrived to be idle without them." Lord Chester- 
field, however, has justly observed in one of his letters, 
when earnestly- cautioning a friend against the perni- 
cious effects of idleness, that active sports are not to be 
reckoned idleness in young people ; and that the list- 
less torpor of doing nothing, alone deserves that name. 
Of this dismal inertness of disposition, Johnson had all 
his life too great a share. Mr. Hector relates, that " h< 
could not oblige him more than by sauntering away the 
hours of vacation in the fields, during which he was 
more engaged in talking to himself than to his compan- 


1725. Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who was longm- 
^gtot. timately acquainted with him, and has preserved a few 
16. anecdotes concerning him, regretting that he was not a 
more diligent collector, informs me, that " when a boy 
he was immoderately fond of reading romances of chiv- 
alry, and he retained his fondness for them through life ; 
so that (adds his Lordship) spending part of a summer 
at my parsonage-house in the country, he chose for his 
regular reading the old Spanish romance of Kelix- 
marte of Hircama, in folio, which he read quite 
through. Yet I have heard him attribute to these ex- 
travagant fictions that unsettled turn of mind which pre- 
vented his ever fixing in any profession." 

After having resided for some time at the house of 
his uncle, 1 Cornelius Ford, Johnson was, at the age, of 
fifteen, removed to the school of Stourbridge, in Wor- 
cestershire, of which Mr. Wentworth was then master. 
This step was taken by the advice of his cousin, the 
Rev. Mr. Ford, a man in whom both talents and good 
dispositions were disgraced by licentiousness, 2 but who 
was a very able judge of what was right. At this school 
he did not receive so much benefit as was expected. 
It has been said, that he acted in the capacity of an as- 
sistant to Mr. Wentworth, in teaching the younger boys. 
" Mr. YV'entworth (he told me) was a very able man, 
but an idle man, and to me very severe ; but I cannot 
blame him much. I was then a big boy ; he saw I did 
not reverence him ; and that he should get no honour 
by me. I had brought enough with me, to carry me 
through ; and all I should get at his school would be 
ascribed to my own labour, or to my former master. 
Yet he taught me a great deal." 

He thus discriminated, to Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dro- 
more, his progress at his two grammar-schools. " At 
one, I learned much in the school, but little from the 
master ; in the other, I learnt much from the master, 
but little in the school." 

1 [Cornelius Ford, according to Sir John Hawkins, was his cousin-german, being 
the son of Dr. Joseph [Q. Nathanael] Ford, an eminent Physician, who was broth- 
er to Johnson's mother. M.] 

2 He is said to be the original of the parson in Hogarth's Modern Midnight Con- 


The Bishop also informs me, that " Dr. Johnson's fa- 
ther, before he was received at Stourbridge, applied to 
have him admitted as a scholar and assistant to the Rev. 
Samuel Lea, M. A., head master of Newport school, in 
Shropshire ; (a very diligent good teacher, at that time 
in high reputation, under whom Mr. Jlollis is said, in 
the Memoirs of his Life, to have been also educated.) 3 
This application to Mr. Lea was not successful ; but 
Johnson had afterwards the gratification to hear that the 
old gentleman, who lived to a very advanced age, men- 
tioned it as one of the most memorable events of his 
lite, that " he was very near having that great man for 
his scholar." 

He remained at Stourbridge little more than a year, 
and then he returned home, where he may be said to 
have loitered, for two years, in a state very unworthy 
his uncommon abilities. He had already given several 
proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school-exer- 
cises and in other occasional compositions. Of these I 
have obtained a considerable collection, by the favour 
of Mr. Wentworth, son of one of his masters, and of Mr. 
Hector, his school-fellow and friend ; from which I select 
the following specimens : 

Translation of Virgil. Pastoral 1. 


Now, Tityrus, you, supine and careless laid, 
Play on your pipe beneath this beechen shade ; 
While wretched we about the world must roam, 
And leave our pleasing fields and native home, 
Here at your ease you sing your amorous flame, 
And the wood rings with Amarillis' name. 


Those blessings, friend, a deity bestow'd, 
For I shall never think him less than God ; 
Oft on his altar shall my firstlings lie, 
Their blood the consecrated stones shall dye : 
He gave my flocks to graze the flowery meads. 
And me to tune at ease th' unequal reeds. 

As was likewise the BishoD of Dromore many vears afterwauk 



My admiration only I exprest, 
(No spark of envy harbours in my breast) 
That, when confusion o'er the country reigns, 
To you alone this happy state remains. 
Here I, though faint myself, must drive my goats. 
Far from their antient fields and humble cots. 
This scarce I lead, who ieft on yonder rock 
Two tender kids, the hopes of all the flock. 
Had we not been perverse and careless grown, 
This dire event by omens was foreshown ; 
Our trees were blasted by the thunder stroke, 
And left-hand crows, from an old hollow oak, 
Foretold the coming evil by their dismal croak. 

Translation of Horace. Book I. Ode xxii. 

The man, my friend, whose conscious heart 
With virtue's sacred ardour glows, 

Nor taints with death the envenom'd dart, 
Nor needs the guard of Moorish bows : 

Though Scythia's icy cliffs he treads, 
Or horrid Africk's faithless sands ; 

Or where the fam'd Hydaspes spreads 
His liquid wealth o'er barbarous lands. 

For while by Chloe's image charm'd, 
Too far in Sabine woods I stray 'd ; 

Me singing, careless and unarm'd, 
A grizly wolf surprised, and fled. 

No savage more portentous stain'd 
Apulia's spacious wilds with gore ; 

No fiercer Juba's thirsty land, 
Dire nurse of raging lions, bore. 

Place me where no soft summer gale 
Among the quivering branches sighs ; 

Where clouds condens'd for ever veil 
With horrid gloom the frowning skies : 


Place me beneath the burning line, 

A clime deny'd to human race : 
I'll sing of Chloe's charms divine, 

Her heav'nly voice, and beauteous face. 

Translation of Horace. Book II. Ode ix. 

Clouds do not always veil the skies, 
Nor showers immerse the verdant plain : 

Nor do the billows always rise, 
Or storms afflict the ruffled main. 

Nor, Valgius, on th' Armenian shores 
Do the chain'd waters always freeze ; 

Not always furious Boreas roars, 

Or bends with violent force the trees. 

But you are ever drown'd in tears, 
For Mystes dead you ever mourn ; 

No setting Sol can ease vour care, 
But finds you sad at his return. 

The wise experienc'd Grecian sage 
Mourn 'd not Antilochus so long ; 

Nor did King Priam's hoary age 

So much lament his slaughtered son. 

Leave off, at length, these woman's sighs. 

Augustus' numerous trophies sing ; 
Repeat that prince's victories, 

To whom all nations tribute bring. 

Niphates rolls an humbler wave, 

At length the undaunted Scythian yields. 
Content to live the Roman's slave, 

And scarce forsakes his native fields 


Translation of part of the Dialogue between Hectol 
and Andromache ; from the Sixth Book of Ho- 
mer's Iliad. 

She ceas'd ; then godlike Hector answer d kind. 
(His various plumage sporting in the wind) 
That post, and all the rest, shall be my care ; 
But shall I, then, forsake the unfinished war ? 
How would the Trojans brand great Hector's name ! 
And one base action sully all my fame, 
Acquired by wounds and battles bravely fought ! 
Oh ! how my soul abhors so mean a thought. 
Long since I learn'd to slight this fleeting breath. 
And view with cheerful eyes approaching death. 
The inexorable sisters have decreed 
That Priam's house, and Priam's self shall bleed : 
The day will come, in which proud Troy shall yield. 
And spread its smoking ruins o'er the field. 
Yet Hecuba's, nor Priam's hoary age, 
Whose blood shall quench some Grecian's thirsty rage- 
Nor my brave brothers, that have bit the ground, 
Their souls dismiss'd through many a ghastly wound. 
Can in my bosom half that grief create, 
As the sad thought of your impending fate : 
When some proud Grecian dame shall tasks impose, 
Mimick your tears, and ridicule your woes ; 
Beneath Hyperia's waters shall you sweat, 
And, fainting, scarce support the liquid weight: 
Then shall some Argive loud insulting cry, 
Behold the wife of Hector, guard of Troy ! 
Tears, at my name, shall drown those beauteous eyes. 
And that fair bosom heave with rising sighs ! 
Before that day, by some brave hero's hand 
May I lie slain, and spurn the bloody sand. 

To a Young Lady on her Birth-Day.* 

This tributary verse receive my fair, 
Warm with an ardent lover's fondest pray'r. 
May this returning day for ever find 
Thy form more lovely, more adorn'd thy mind ; 

* Mr. Hector informs me, that this was made almost impromptu, in his presence. 


All pains, all cares, may favouring heavYi remove, 
All but the sweet solicitudes of love ! 
May powerful nature join with grateful art, 
To point each glance, and force it to the heart ! 
O then, when conquered crouds confess thy sway. 
When ev'n proud wealth and prouder wit obe\ . 
My fair, be mindful of the mighty trust, 
Alas ! 'tis hard for beautv to be just. 
Those sovereign charms with strictest care employ ; 
Nor give the generous pain, the worthless joy : 
With his own form acquaint the forward tool, 
Shewn in the faithful glass of ridicule ; 
Teach mimick censure her own faults to find, 
No more let coquettes to themselves be blind, 
So shall Belinda's charms improve mankind. 

The Young Author. 5 

When first the peasant, long inclin'd to roam. 
Forsakes his rural sports and peaceful home, 
Pleas'd with the scene the smiling ocean \ ields, 
He scorns the verdant meads and tlow'ry fields ; 
Then dances jocund o'er the watery way, 
While the breeze whispers, and the streamers play : 
Unbounded prospects in his bosom roll, 
And future millions lift his rising soul ; 
In blissful dreams he digs the golden mine, 
And raptur'd sees the new-found ruby shine. 
Joys insincere ! thick clouds invade the skies, 
Loud roar the billows, high the waves arise ; 
Sick'ning with fear, he longs to view the shore. 
And vows to trust the faithless deep no more. 
So the young Author, panting after fame, 
And the long honours of a lasting name, 
Entrusts his happiness to human kind, 
More false, more cruel, than the seas or wind. 
i4 Toil on, dull croud, in extacies he cries, 
For wealth or title, perishable prize ; 
While I those transitorv blessings scorn, 
Secure of praise from ages yet unborn." 

1 This he inserted, with many alteration 1 !, in the Gentleman'* Magazine, 17 I 

vol. r. 7 


This thought once form'd, all council comes too late* 
He flies to press, and hurries on his fate ; 
Swiftly he sees the imagin'd laurels spread, 
And feels the unfading- wreath surround his head. 
Warn'd by another's fate, vain youth be wise, 
Those dreams were Settle's once, and Ogilby's : 
The pamphlet spreads, incessant hisses rise, 
To some retreat the baffled writer flies ; 
Where no sour criticks snarl, no sneers molest, 
Safe from the tart lampoon, and stinging jest ; 
There begs of heaven a less distinguished lot, 
Glad to be hid, and proud to be forgot. 

Epilogue, intended to have been spoken by a Lady whv 
was to personate the Ghost g/Hermione. 6 

Ye blooming train, who give despair or joy, 
Bless with a smile, or with a frown destroy ; 
In whose fair cheeks destructive Cupids wait, 
And with unerring shafts distribute fate ; 
Whose snowy breasts, whose animated eyes, 
Each youth admires, though each admirer dies ; 
Whilst you deride their pangs in barb'rous play, 
Unpitying see them weep, and hear them pray, 
And unrelenting sport ten thousand lives away ; 
For you, ye fair, I quit the gloomy plains ; 
Where sable night in all her horrour reigns ; 
No fragrant bowers, no delightful glades, 
Receive the unhappy ghosts of scornful maids. 
For kind, for tender nymphs the myrtle blooms, 
And weaves her bending boughs in pleasing glooms : 
Perennial roses deck each purple vale, 
And scents ambrosial breathe in every gale : 
Far hence are banish'd vapours, spleen, and tears. 
Tea, scandal, ivory teeth, and languid airs : 
No pug, nor favourite Cupid there enjoys 
The balmy kiss, for which poor Thyrsis dies ; 
Form'd to delight, they use no foreign arms, 
Nor torturing whalebones pinch them into charms ; 

'' Some young ladies at Lichfield having proposed to act " The Distressed 
Mother," Johnson wrote this, and gave it to Mr. Hector to convey it privately to 



No conscious blushes there their cheeks inflame, >T 

For those who feel no guilt can know no shame ; £ tat 

Unfaded still their former charms they shew, \q 

Around them pleasures wait, and joys tor ever new. 

But cruel virgins meet severer fates ; 

Expell'd and exil'd from the blissful scats, 

To dismal realms, and regions void of peace, 

\\ here furies ever howl, and serpents hiss. 

O'er the sad plains perpetual tempests si^h, 

And pois'nous vapours, black'ning all the sk) . 

With livid hue the fairest face oVrcast, 

And every beautv withers at the blast : 

Where'er they fly their lovers' ghosts pursue, 

Inflicting all those ills which once they knew ; 

Vexation, Fury, Jealousy, Despair, 

Vex ev'ry eye, and every bosom tear ; 

Their foul deformities by all descry 'd, 

No maid to flatter, and no paint to hide. 

Then melt, ye fair, while clouds around you sigh. 

Nor let disdain sit louring in your eye ; 

With pity soften every awful grace, 

And beauty smile auspicious in each {ace ; 

To ease their pains exert your milder power, 

So shall you guiltless reign, and all mankind adore. 

The two years which he spent at home, after his re- 
turn from Stourbridge, he passed in what he thought 
idleness, and was scolded by his father for Ins want of 
steady application. Me had no settled plan of lite, nor 
looked forward at all, but merelv lived from day to day. 
Yet he read a great deal in a desultory manner, with- 
out any scheme of study, as chance threw books in his 
way, and inclination directed him through them, lie 
used to mention one curious instance of his casual 
reading, when but a boy. Having imagined thai ins 
brother had hid some apples behind a large folio upon 
an upper shelf in his father's shop, he climbed up to 
search for them. There were no apples ; but the huge 
folio proved to be Fetrarch, whom he had seen men- 
tioned, in some preface, as one of the restorers of learn- 
ing. His curiosity having been thus excited, he sai 


1728. down with avidity, and read a great part of the book. 

iEtaT. ^ nat ne reac ' during these two years, he told me, was 
19. not works of mere amusement, " not voyages and trav- 
els, but all literature, Sir, all ancient writers, all manly : 
though but little Greek, only some of Anacreon and 
liesiod : but in this irregular manner (added he) I had 
looked into a great many books, which were not com- 
monly known at the Universities, where they seldom 
read any books but what are put into their hands by 
their tutors ; so that when 1 came to Oxford, Dr. 
Adams, now master of Pembroke College, told me, 1 
was the best qualified for the University that he had 
ever known come there." 

In estimating the progress of his mind during these 
two years, as well as in future periods of his life, we 
must not regard his own hastv confession of idleness ; 
for we see, when he explains himself, that he was ac- 
quiring various stores ; and, indeed he himself con- 
cluded the account, with saying, " I would not have 
you think 1 was doing nothing then." He might, 
perhaps, have studied more assiduously ; but it may 
be doubted, whether such a mind as his was not more 
enriched by roaming at large in the fields of literature, 
than if it had been confined to any single spot. The 
analogy between body and mind is very general, and 
the parallel will hold as to their food, as well as any 
other particular. The flesh of animals who feed ex- 
cursively, is allowed to have a higher flavour than that 
of those who are cooped up. May there not be the 
same difference between men who read as their taste 
prompts, and men who are confined in cells and col- 
leges to stated tasks ! 

1 hat a man in Mr. Michael Johnson's circum- 
stances should think of sending his son to the expen- 
sive University of Oxford, at his own charge, seems 
very improbable. The subject was too delicate to 
question Johnson upon : but 1 have been assured by 
Dr. Taylor, that the scheme never would have taken 
place, had not a gentleman of Shropshire, one of his 
school-fellows, spontaneously undertaken to support 
him at Oxford, in the character of his companion : 


though, in fact, he never received any assistance what- 1748. 
ever from that gentleman. feu*. 

He, however, went to Oxford, and was entered a 19. 
Commoner of Pembroke College, on the 31st <>t Oc- 
tober, 1728, being then in his nineteenth year. 

The Reverend Dr. Adams, who afterwards presided 
over Pembroke College with universal esteem, told 
me he was present, and gave me some account of what 
passed on the night of Johnson's arrival at Oxford. 
On that evening, his father, who had anxiously accom- 
panied him, found means to have him introduced to 
Mr. Jorden, who was to be his tutor. His being put 
under any tutor, reminds us of what Wood says of Ro- 
bert Burton, authour of the " Anatomy of Melancho- 
ly," when elected student of Christ Church ; * ; for 
form's sake, though he wanted not a tutor, he was put 
under the tuition of Dr. John Bancroft, afterwards 
Bishop of Oxon." 7 

His father seemed very full of the merits of his son, 
and told the company he was a good scholar, and a 
poet, and wrote Latin verses. His figure and manner 
appeared strange to them ; but he behaved modestly, 
and sat silent, till upon something which occurred in 
the course of conversation, he suddenly struck in and 
quoted Macrobius ; and thus he gave the first impres- 
sion of that more extensive reading in which he had 
indulged himself. 

His tutor, Mr. Jorden, fellow of Pembroke, was not, 
it seems, a man of such abilities as we should conceive 
requisite for the instructor of Samuel Johnson, who 
gave me the following account of him. " He was a 
very worthy man, but a heavy man, and 1 did not 
profit much by his instructions. Indeed, I did not 
attend him much. The first day after 1 came to col- 
lege, 1 waited upon him, and then staid away four. 
On the sixth, Mr. Jorden asked me why 1 had not 
attended. 1 answered. I had been sliding in Christ 
Church meadow. And this 1 said with as much non- 
chalance as I am now 3 talking to you. 1 had no no- 

• Athen. Oxon. edit. 1721, i. 627. 
8 Oxford, 20th March, 1776; 


tion that I was wrong or irreverent to my tutor." Bos- 
well. " That, Sir, was great foritude of mind." 
Johnson. " No, Sir ; stark insensibility." 9 

The fifth of November was at that time kept with 
great solemnity at Pembroke College, and exercises 
upon the subject of the day were required. Johnson 
neglected to perform his, which is much to be regret- 
ted ; for his vivacity of imagination, and force of lan- 
guage, would probably have produced something sub- 
lime upon the gunpowder plot. To apologise for his 
neglect, he gave in a short copy of verses, in titled 
Somnium, containing a common thought ; " that the 
Muse had come to him in his sleep, and whispered, 
that it did not become him to write on such subjects 
as politicks ; he should confine himself to humbler 
themes :" but the versification was truly V irgilian. 

He had a love and respect for Jorden, not for his 
literature, but for his worth. " Whenever (said he) a 
young man becomes Jorden's pupil, he becomes his 

Having given such a specimen of his poetical powers. 
he was asked by Mr. Jorden, to translate Pope's Mes- 
siah into Latin verse, as a Christmas exercise. He per- 
formed it with uncommon rapidity, and in so masterly 
a manner, that he obtained great applause from it, which 
ever after kept him high in the estimation of his Col- 
lege, and, indeed, of all the University. 

It is said, that Mr. Pope expressed himself concern- 
ing it in terms of strong approbation. Dr. Taylor told 
me, that it was first printed for old Mr. Johnson, with- 
out the knowledge of his son, who was very angry 
when he heard of it. A Miscellany of Poems collect- 
ed by a person of the name of Husbands, was publish- 
ed at Oxford in 1731. In that Miscellany Johnson's 
Translation of the Messiah appeared, with this modest 
motto from Scaliger's Poeticks, " Ex alieuo ingeriio Po- 
eta, ex suo tantum versificator." 

9 It ought to be remembered, that Dr. Johnson was apt, in his literary as well 
as moral exercises, to overcharge his defects. Dr. Adams informed me, that he 
attended his tutor's lectures, an.d also die lectures in the College Hall, very reg- 


1 am not ignorant that critical objections have been 1728. 
made to this and other specimens of Johnson's Latin jg^J 
Poetry. I acknowledge myself not competent to de- 19 . 
cide on a question of such extreme nicety. But 1 am 
satisfied with the just and discriminative eulogy pro- 
nounced upon it by my friend Air. (Jourtenux 

■• And with like ease his vivid lines assume 

" The garb and dignity of ancient Home. — 

" Let college verse-men trite conceits express, 

" Trick'd out in splendid shreds of Virgil's dress ; 

•• From playful Ovid cull the tinsel phrase, 

" And vapid notions hitch in pilfer'd lays ; 

" Then with mosaic art the piece combine, 

" And boast the glitter of each dulcet line : 

" Johnson adventur'd boldly to transfuse 

" His vigorous sense into the Latin muse ; 

" Aspir'd to shine by unreflected light, 

" And with a Roman's ardour think and write. 

" lie felt the tuneful Nine his breast inspire, 

" And, like a master, wak'd the soothing lvre : 

" iioratian strains a grateful heart proclaim, 

" While Sky's wild rocks resound his Thralia's name. 

" Hesperia's plant, in some less skilful hands, 

" To bloom a while, factitious heat demands : 

•' Though glowing Maro a faint warmth supplies, 

" The sickly blossom in the hot-house dies : 

'-* By Johnson's genial culture, art, and toil, 

" Its root strikes deep, and owns the fost'ring soil « 

•• Imbibes our sun through all its swelling veins, 

" And grows a native of Britannia's plains." 1 

The " morbid melancholy," which was lurking in his 
constitution, and to which we may ascribe those partic- 
ularities, and that aversion to regular life, which, at a 
very earlv period marked his character, gathered such 
strength in his twentieth year, as to afflict him in a 
dreadful manner. While he was at Lichfield, in the 
college vacation of the year 1729, he felt himself over- 

1 Poetical Review of the Literary and Moral Character o<" Dr. Johnson, bv 
J»ha Courtenay, Esq. M. P. 


1728. whelmed with an horrible hypochondria, with perpet- 
ual irritation, fretfulness, and impatience ; and with 
a dejection, gloom, and despair, which made existence 
misery. From this dismal malady he never afterwards 
was perfectly relieved ; and all his labours, and all his 
enjoyments, were but temporary interruptions of its 
baleful influence. How wonderful, how unsearchable 
are the ways of God ! Johnson, who was blest with all 
the powers of genius and understanding in a degree far 
above the .ordinary state of human nature, was at the 
same time visited with a disorder so afflictive, that they 
who know it by dire experience, will not envy his exalt- 
ed endowments. That it was, in some degree, occa- 
sioned by a defect in his nervous system, that inexpli- 
cable part of our frame, appears highly probable. He 
told Mr. Paradise that he was sometimes so languid 
and inefficient, that he could not distinguish the hour 
upon the town-clock. 

Johnson, upon the first violent attack of this disor- 
der, strove to overcome it by forcible exertions. He 
frequently walked to Birmingham and back again, and 
tried many other expedients, but all in vain. His ex- 
pression concerning it to me was " I did not then know 
how to manage it." His distress became so intolerable, 
that he applied to Dr. Swinfen, physician in Lichfield, 
his god-father, and put into his hands a state of his 
case, written in Latin. Dr. Swinfen was so much 
struck with the extraordinary acuteness, research, and 
eloquence of this paper, that in his zeal for his god-son 
he shewed it to several people. His daughter, Mrs. 
Desmoulins, who was many years humanely supported 
in Dr. Johnson's house in London, told me, that upon 
his discovering that Dr. Swinfen had communicated his 
case, he was so much offended, that he was never after- 
wards fully reconciled to him. He indeed had good 
reason to be offended ; for though Dr. Swinfen's mo- 
tive was good, he inconsiderately betrayed a matter 
deeply interesting and of great delicacy, which had been 
entrusted to him in confidence : and exposed a com- 
plaint of his young friend and patient, which in the 

DR. JOHNSON*. 5", 

superficial opinion of the generality of mankind, is at- *729« 
Sendee! with contempt and disgrace. iEtat. 

But let not little men triumph upon knowing that 20. 
Johnson was an Hypochondriack, was subject to 

what the learned, philosophical, and pious Dr. Cheyne 
has so well treated under the title of" The English 
Malady." Though he suffered severely from it. he 
was not therefore degraded. The powers of his great 
mind might be troubled, and their full exercise sus- 
pended at times ; but the mind itself was ever entire. 
As a proof of this, it is only necessary to consider, that, 
when he was at the very worst, he composed that state 
of his own case, which shewed an uncommon vigour, 
not only of fancy and taste, but of judgement. I am 
aware that he himself was too ready to call such a 
complaint by the name of madness ; in conformity 
with which notion, he has traced its gradations, with 
exquisite nicety, in one of the chapters of his Rasse- 
las. But there is surely a clear distinction between a 
disorder which affects only the imagination and spir- 
its, while the judgement is sound, and a disorder by 
which the judgement itself is impaired. This distinc- 
tion was made to me by the late Professor Gaubius of 
Leyclen, physician to the Prince of Orange, in a con- 
versation which L had with him several years ago, and 
he expanded it thus : " If (said he) a man tells me 
that he is grievously disturbed, for that he imagines he 
sees a ruffian coming against him with a drawn sword, 
though at the same time he is conscious it is a delu- 
sion, I pronounce him to have a disordered imagina- 
tion ; but if a man tells me that he sees this, and in 
consternation calls to me to look at it. I pronounce him. 
to be mad." 

It is a common effect of low spirits or melancholy, to 
make those Avho are afflicted with it imagine that the) 
are actually suffering those evils which happen to be 
most strongly presented to their minds. Some have 
fancied themselves to be deprived of the use of their 
limbs, some to labour under acute diseases, others to 
be in extreme poverty : when, in truth, there was nol 
the least reality in any o^ the suppositions : «*o that 

VOL. I 8 


3729. when the vapours were dispelled, they were convinced 
jg^of the delusion. To Johnson, whose supreme enjoy- 
20 € ment was the exercise of his reason, the disturbance 
or obscuration of that faculty was the evil most to be 
dreaded. Insanity, therefore, was the object of his 
most dismal apprehension ; and he fancied himself 
seized by it, or approaching to it, at the very time 
when he was giving proofs of a more than ordinary 
soundness and vigour of judgement. That his own dis- 
eased imagination should have so far deceived him, is 
strange ; but it is stranger still that some of his friends 
should have given credit to his groundless opinion, 
when they had such undoubted proofs that it was to- 
tally fallacious ; though it is by no means surprising 
that those who wish to depreciate him, should, since 
his death, have laid hold of this circumstance, and in- 
sisted upon it with very unfair aggravation. 

Amidst the oppression and distraction of a disease 
which very few have felt in its full extent, but many 
have experienced in a slighter degree, .Johnson, in his 
writings, and in his conversation, never failed to dis- 
play all the varieties of intellectual excellence. In his 
march through this world to a better, his mind still ap- 
peared grand and brilliant, and impressed all around 
him with the truth of Virgil's noble sentiment — 


" Igneus est ollis vigor et coo lest is origo" 

The history of his mind as to religion is an impor- 
tant article. I have mentioned the early impressions 
made upon his tender imagination by his mother, who 
continued her pious cares with assiduity, but, in his 
opinion, not with judgement, " Sunday (said he) was 
a heavy day to me when I was a boy. My mother 
confined me on that day, and made me read ' The 
Whole Duty of Man,' from a great part of which I 
could derive no instruction. When, for instance, I had 
read the chapter on theft, which from my infancy I had 
been taught was wrong, 1 was no more convinced that 
theft was wrong than before ; so there was no accession 
of knowledge. A boy should be introduced to such 


books, by having his attention directed to the arrange- i73ft. 
incut, to the style, and other exc< llencies of composi- ]g t ^{ 
tion ; that the mind being thus engaged by an amusing _><>. 
variety of objects may not grow weary." 

lie communicated to me the following particular^ 
upon ilk' subject of his religious progress. " 1 till into 
an inattention to religion, or an indifference about it, 
in my ninth year. The church at Lichfield, in which 
Me had a seat, wanted reparation, so 1 was to go arid 
find a seat in other churches; and having had eyes, 
and being awkward about this, 1 used to go and read 
in the fields on Sunday. This habit continued till no 
fourteenth year ; and still I find a meat reluctance to 
go to church. 1 then became a sort of lax talker against 
religion, for 1 did not much think- against it; and this 
lasted till 1 went to Oxford, where it would not be suf- 
fered. When at Oxford, 1 took up " Law's Serious 
Call to a Holy Life," expecting to find it a dull book, 
(as such books generally are,) and perhaps to laugh at 
it. But I found Law quite an overmatch for me ; and 
this was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest of 
religion, after 1 became capable of rational enquiry." 

2 Mrs. Piozzi has given a strange fantastical account of the original of Dr. 
Johnson's belief in our most holy religion. " At the age of ten years his mind was 
disturbed by scruples of infidelity, which preyed upon his spirits, and made him 
very uneasy, the more so, as he revealed his uneasiness to none, being naturally, 
(as he said) of a sullen temper, and reserved disposition. He searched, however, 
diligently, but fruitlessly, for evidences of the truth of revelation ; and, at length, 
recollecting a. book he had once seen [I suppose at five years old] in his father's shop, 
intitled De iieritate Religionis, &c. he began to think himself highly culpable for neg- 
lecting such a means of information, and took himself se\ erely to task for this sin, 
adding many acts of voluntary, and, to others, unknown penance. The first oppor- 
tunity which offered, of course, he seized the book with avidity ; but, on examine 
ation, not finding himself sch lar enough to peruse its contents, set his hean at rc^t : ; 
not thinkino- to enquire whether there were any English books written on the sub- 
ject, followed his usual amusements and considered his conscience ai lighter 
He redoubled his diligence to learn the language that contained the information 
he most wished for ; but from the pain which guilt [namely having emitted to i 
what he did not understand] had given him, he now began to deduce the soul's i 
mortality, [a sensation of pain in this world being an unquestionable proof of exist 
another] which was the point that belief first stopped at ; and from that moment re- 
viving to be a Christian, became one of the most zealous and pious ones our na;i 
ever produced." Anecdotes, p. 17. 

This is one of the numerous misrepresentations of this lively la '\ , which 
worth while to correct ; for if credit should be given to such a childish, irration- 
al, and ridiculous statement of the foundation of Dr. Johnson's faith in Christiani- 
ty, how little credit would be due to it. Mrs. Piozzi seems to wish, that . 
world should think Dr. Johnson also under the influence of that easy logick, ! 
pra ratione •voluntas. 


17^9- From this time forward religion was the predominant 

jE t ^ object of his thoughts; though, with the just senti- 

20. ments of a conscientious christian, he lamented that 

his practice of its duties fell far short of what it ought 

to be. 

This instance of a mind such as that of Johnson 
being first disposed, by an unexpected incident, to 
think with anxiety of the momentous concerns of eter- 
nity, and of " what he should do to be saved," may 
for ever be produced in opposition to the superficial 
and sometimes profane contempt that has been thrown 
upon those occasional impressions which it is certain 
many christians have experienced ; though it must be 
acknowledged that weak minds, from an erroneous 
supposition that no man is in a state of grace who has 
not felt a particular conversion, have, in some cases, 
brought a degree of ridicule upon them ; a ridicule, of 
which it is inconsiderate or unfair to make a general 

How seriously Johnson was impressed with a sense 
of religion, even in the vigour of his youth, appears from 
the following passage in his minutes, kept by way of 
diary : Sept. 7, 1736. 1 have this day entered upon my 
28th year. " Mayest thou, O God, enable me, for Je- 
sus Christ's sake, to spend this in such a manner, 
that L may receive comfort from it at the hour of death, 
and in the day of judgement ! Amen." 

The particular course of his reading while at Oxford, 
and during the time of vacation which he passed at 
home, cannot be traced. Enough has been said of his 
irregular mode of study. He told me, that from his 
earliest years he loved to read poetry, but hardly ever 
read any poem to an end ; that he read Shakspeare at 
a period so early, that the speech of the Ghost in Ham- 
let terrified him when he was alone ; that Horace's 
Odes were the compositions in which he took most de- 
light, and it was long before he liked his Epistles and 
Satires. He told me what he read solidly at Oxford 
was Greek ; not the Grecian historians, but Homer and 
Euripides, and now and then a little Epigram ; that the 
study of which he was the most fond was Metaphys^ 


icks, but he had not read much, even in thai way. I 1729. 
always thought that he did himself injustice 111 his ac- aT'^ 
count of what he had read, and that he must have been 20. 
speaking with reference to the vast portion «i study 
which is possible, and to which a few scholars in the 
whole history of literature have attained: for when 1 
once asked him whether a person whose name I have 
now forgotten, studied hard, he answered w - No, Sir. 1 
do not believe he studied hard. 1 never knew a man 
who studied hard. 1 conclude, indeed, from the effect 
that some men have studied hard, as Bentley and 
l 'iarke." Trying him by that criterion upon which he 
formed his judgement of others, we may be absolutely 
certain, both from his writings and his conversation, 
that his reading was very extensive. Dr. Adam Smith, 
than whom few were better judges on this subject, once 
observed to me, that " Johnson knew more book-- than 
any man alive." He had a peculiar facility in seizing 
at once what was valuable in anv book, without sub- 
mitting to the labour of perusing it from beginning to 
end. He had, from the irritability of his constitution, 
at all times, an impatience and hurry when he cither 
read or wrote. A certain apprehension arising from 
novelty, made him write his first exercise at College 
twice over ; but he never took that trouble with any 
other composition ; and we shall see that his most ex- 
cellent works were struck off at a heat, with rapid ex- 
ertion. 3 

Yet he appears, from his early notes or memoran- 
dums in my possession, to have at various times at- 
tempted, or at least planned, a methodical course of 
study, according to computation, of which he was all 
his life fond, as it fixed his attention steadily upon 
something without, and prevented his mind from prey- 
ing upon itself. Thus i find in his hand-writing the 
number of lines in each of two of Euripides's Tragedies, 
of the Georgicks of Virgii, of the first v ix books 

1 [He told Dr. Burney, that he never wrote any of his works that were print- 
ed, twice over. Dr. Burney 's wonder at seeing several pages of his " Lives of 
the Poets," in Manuscript, with ecarcc a blot or erasure, drew this observation 
from him. M.] 


17?9. of the yEneid, of Horace's Art of Poetry, of three of 

jEt'jJJ' the books of Ovid's Metamorphosis, of some parts of 

20. Theocritus, and of the tenth Satire of Juvenal ; and a 

table, showing at the rate of various numbers a day, (I 

suppose verses to be read,) what would be, in each case, 

the total amount in a week, month, and year. 

No man had a more ardent love of literature, or a 
higher respect for it, than Johnson. His apartment in 
Pembroke College was that upon the second floor over 
the gateway. The enthusiast of learning will ever con- 
template it with veneration. One day, while he w 7 as 
sitting in it quite alone, Dr. Panting, then master of 
the College, whom he called " a fine Jacobite fellow," 
overheard him uttering this soliloquy in his strong em- 
phatick voice : " Well, 1 have a mind to see what is 
done in other places of learning. I'll go and visit the 
Universities abroad. I'll go to France and Italy. I'll 
go to Padua. — And Pll mind my business. For an 
Athenian blockhead is the worst of all blockheads." 4 - 

Dr. Adams told me that Johnson, while he was at 
Pembroke College, " was caressed and loved by all 
about him, was a gay and frolicksome fellow, and 
passed there the happiest part of his life." But this is 
a striking proof of the fallacy of appearances, and how 
little any of us know of the real internal state even of 
those whom we see most frequently ; for the truth is, 
that he was then depressed by poverty, and irritated by 
disease. When 1 mentioned to him this account as 
given me by Dr. Adams, he said, " Ah, Sir, I was mad 
and violent. It was bitterness which they mistook for 
frolick. I was miserably poor, and 1 thought to fight 
my way by my literature and my wit ; So I disregarded 
all power and all authority." 

The Bishop of Dromore observes in a letter to me, 
u The pleasure he took in vexing the tutors and fellows 

4 I had this anecdote from Dr. Adams, and Dr. Johnson confirmed it. Bram- 
ston, in his " Man of Taste," has the same thought : 

" Sure, of all blockheads, scholars are the worst." 

[Johnson's meaning however, is, that a scholar who is a blockhead, must be the 
worst of all blockheads, because he is without excuse. But Bramston, in the assu- 
med character of an ignorant coxcomb, maintains, that all scholars are blockheads, 
on account of their scholarship. J. B.— O."! 


has been often mentioned. But 1 have heard him saw ». 
what ought to be recorded to the honour of the present ^ff? 
venerable master of that College, thi Keverend William 21.' 

Adams, 1). D. who was then very young, and one of 
the junior fellows ; that the mild butjudi< ious expostu- 
lations of this worthy man, whose virtue awed him, 
and whose learning he revered, made him really asham- 
ed of himself, ' though I fear (said he) I was too proud 
to own it.' 

" I have heard from some of his contemporaries that 
he was generally seen lounging at the College gate, 
with a circle of young students round him, whom he 
was entertaining with wit, and keeping from their 
studies, if not spiriting them up to rebellion against the 
College discipline, which in his maturer years he so 
much extolled." 

He very early began to attempt keeping notes or 
memorandums, by way of a diary of his life. 1 find, 
in a parcel of loose leaves, the following spirited resolu- 
tion to contend against his natural indolence : Oct. 
1729. "Desk/ice vuledivi ; syrenis istius cantibus sur- 
dum posthac aurem obversurus. — 1 bid farewell to Sloth, 
being resolved henceforth not to listen to her syren 
strains." 1 have also in my possession a few leaves of 
another Libel/us, or little book, entitled An nails, in 
w r hich some of the early particulars of his history are 
registered in Latin. 

I do not find that he formed any close intimacies 
with his fellow-collegians. But Dr. Adams told me, 
that he contracted a love and regard for Pembroke 
College, which he retained to the last. A short time 
before his death he sent to that College, a present of 
all his works, to be deposited in their library : and he 
had thoughts of leaving to it his house at Lichfield; 
but his friends who were about him very properly dis- 
suaded him from it, and he bequeathed it to some poo: 
relations. He took a pleasure in boasting of the many 
eminent men who had been educated at Pembroke. In 
this list are found the names of Mr. Hawkins the Po- 
etry Professor, Mr. Sher.stone. Sir William Blackstont . 


1730. and others ;* not forgetting the celebrated popular 
JJ^ preacher, Mr. George Whitefield, of whom, though Dr. 
21. ' Johnson did not think very highly, it must be acknowl- 
edged that his; eloquence was powerful, his views pious 
and charitable, his assiduity almost incredible ; and, 
that since his death, the integrity of his character has 
been fully vindicated. Being himself a poet, Johnson 
was peculiarly happy in mentioning how many of the 
sons of Pembroke were poets ; adding, with a smile of 
sportive triumph, " Sir, we are a nest of singing birds." 
He was not, however, blind to what he thought 
the defects of his own college : and I have, from the 
information of Dr. Taylor, a very strong instance of 
that rigid honesty which he ever inflexibly preserved. 
Taylor had obtained his father's consent to be entered 
of Pembroke, that he might be with his school-fellow 
Johnson, with whom, though, some years older than 
himself, he was verv intimate. Ihis would have been 
a great comfort to Johnson. But he fairly told Taylor 
that he could not, in conscience, suffer him to enter 
where he knew he could not have an able tutor. He 
then made enquiry all round the University, and hav- 
ing found that Mr. Bateman, of Christ Church, was 
the tutor of highest reputation, Taylor was entered of 
that College. Mr. Bateman's lectures were so excel- 
lent, that Johnson used to come and get them at sec- 
ond-hand from Taylor, till his poverty being so ex- 
treme, that his shoes were worn out, and his feet ap- 
peared through them, he saw that his humiliating cir- 
cumstances were perceived by the Christ Church men. 
and he came no more. He was too proud to accept of 
money, and somebody having set a pair of new shoes 
at his door, he threw them awav with indignation. 
How must we feel when we read such an anecdote of 
Samuel Johnson ! 

His spirited refusal of an eleemosynary supply of 
shoes, arose, no doubt, from a proper pride. But, con- 
sidering his ascetic disposition at times, as acknowl- 
edged by himself in his Meditations, and the exaggera- 

■ See Nash's History of Worcestershire, Vol. I. p. 529. 


tion with which some have treated the peculiarities of *73i. 
his character, 1 should not wonder to hear it ascribed ^^ 
to a principle of superstitious mortification ; as we are ..-. 
told by Tursellinus, in his Life of St. Ignatius Loyola, 
that this intrepid founder of the order of Jesuits, when 
he arrived at Goa, after having made a severe pilgrim- 
age through the eastern desarts, persisted in wearing 
his miserable shattered shoes, and when new ones were 
offered him, rejected them as an unsuitable indulgence. 

The res angusta domi prevented him from having the 
advantage of a complete academical education, i he 
friend to whom he had trusted for support had deceived 
him. His debts in College, though not great, were in- 
creasing ; and his scanty remittances from Lichfield, 
which had all along been made with great difficulty, 
could be supplied no longer, his father having fallen 
into a state of insolvency. Compelled, therefore, b\ 
irresistible necessity, he left the College in autumn, 
173 1, without a degree, having been a member of it lit- 
tle more than three years. 

Dr. Adams, the worthy and respectable master of 
Pembroke College, has generally had the reputation of 
being Johnson's tutor. The fact, however, is, that in 
1731, Mr. Jorden quitted the College, and his pupils 
were transferred to Dr. Adams; so that had Johnson 
returned, Dr. Adams zcoulil have been his tutor. It is to 
be wished, that this connection had taken place. His 
equal temper, mild disposition, and politeness of man- 
ners, might have insensibly softened the harshness of 
Johnson, and infused into him those more delicate 
charities, those pclites morales, in which, it must be 
confessed, our great moralist was more deficient than 
his best friends could fully justify. Dr. Adams paid 
Johnson this high compliment. He said to me at Ox- 
ford, in 1776, "I was his nominal tutor; but he was 
above my mark." When I repeated it to Johnson, his 
eyes flashed with grateful satisfaction, and he exclaim- 
ed, " That was liberal and noble." 

And now (I had almost said poor) Samuel Johnson 
returned to his native city, destitute, and not knowing 
how he should gain even a decent livelihood. His 

vol. r. 9 


l?3i. father's misfortunes in trade rendered him unable to 
^iaT support his son ; and for some time there appeared no 
22. means by which he could maintain himself. In the 
December of this year his father died. 

The state of poverty in which he died, appears from 
a note in one of Johnson's little diaries of the following 
year, which strongly displays his spirit and virtuous 
dignity of mind. " 1732, Julii 15. Undecim aureos 
deposui, quo die quicquid ante mat r is fumis (quod serum 
sit precor) de pate mis bonis speran licet, viginti scilicet 
libras, accepi. Usque adeo mihi fort una Jingenda est. 
Tnterea, ne paupertate vires animi languescant, nee in 
Jlagitia egestas abigat, cavendum.—\ layed by eleven 
guineas on this day, when I received twenty pounds, 
being all that I have reason to hope for out of my 
father's effects, previous to the death of my mother ; an 
event which I pray God may be very remote. I now 
therefore see that I. must make my own fortune. Mean- 
while, let me take care that the powers of my mind be 
not debilitated by poverty, and that indigence do not 
force me into any criminal act." 

Johnson was so far fortunate, that the respectable 
character of his parents, and his own merit, had, from 
his earliest years, secured him a kind reception in the 
best families at Lichfield. Among these I can mention 
Mr. Howard, Dr. Swinfen, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Levett. 
Captain Garrick, father of the great ornament of the 
British stage; but above all, Mr. Gilbert YValmsley, 6 
Registrar of the Ecclesiastical Court of Lichfield, whose 
character, long after his decease, Dr. Johnson has, in 
his life of Edmund Smith, thus drawn in the glowing 
colours of gratitude : 

" Of Gilbert Walmsley, thus presented to my mind, 
let me indulge myself in the remembrance. 1 knew 
him very early ; he was one of the first friends that lit— 

6 Mr. Warton informs me, " that this early friend of Johnson was entered a 
Commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, aged 17, in 1698 ; and is the author of ma- 
ny Latin verse translations in the Gentleman's Magazine. One of them is a trans- 
lation of 

" My time, O ye Muses, was happily spent," &c. 
He died August 3, J 751, and a monument to his memory has been erected in the 
cathedral of Lichfield, with an inscription written by Mr. Seward, one of the Pre- 


eratufe procured me, and 1 hope, that at least, mygrat- ] 73i. 
itude made me worthy of his notice. JEtat 

" He was of an advanced age, and 1 was only not a > 
boy, vet he never received my notions with contempt. 
Jle was a whig, with all the virulence and malevoi< n< 
of his party; yet difference of opinion did not keep us 
apart. 1 honoured him and he endured me. 

"He had mingled with the gray world without ex- 
emption from its vices or its follies ; but had never n< - 
glected the cultivation of his mind. 1 lis belief of r< ve- 
lation was unshaken ; his learning preserved his princi- 
ples ; he grew first regular, and then pious. 

" His studies had been so various, that I am not ahle 
to name a man of equal knowledge. 1 lis acquaintan 
with books was great, and what he did not immediately 
know, he could, at least, tell where to find. Mich was 
his amplitude of learning, and such his copiousness of 
communication, that it may he doubted whether a day 
now passes, in which 1 have not some advantage from 
his friendship. 

"At this man's table I enjoyed many cheerful and 
instructive hours, with companions, such as are not 
often found — with one who has lengthened, and one 
who has gladdened life ; with Dr. James, whose skill 
in physick will be long remembered ; and with David 
Garrick, whom I hoped to have gratified with this 
character of our common friend. But what are tie 
hopes of man ! I am disappointed by that stroke i 
death, which has eclipsed the gaiety ot nations, im- 
poverished the publick stock of harmless pleasure." 

Jn these families he passed much time in his ea 
years. In most of them, he was in the compan) o 
ladies, particularly at Mr. Walmsley's, whose wife and 
sisters-in-law, of the name of Aston, and daughters oi 
a Baronet, were remarkable for good breeding; so that 
the notion which has been industriously circulated and 
believed, that he never was in good company till lat< 
in life, and, consequently had been confirmed in coarsi 
and ferocious manners by long habits, is wholly with- 
out foundation. Some of the ladies have as&uri 1 me 


1731. they recollected him well when a young man, as dis- 

iEtat!' tinguished tor his complaisance. 

22. And that his politeness was not merely occasional 
and temporary, or confined to the circles of Lichfield, 
is ascertained by the testimony of a lady, who, in a pa- 
per with which I have been favoured by a daughter of 
his intimate friend and physician, Dr. Lawrence, thus 
describes Dr. Johnson some years afterwards : 

" As the particulars of the former part of Dr. John- 
son's life do not seem to be very accurately known, a 
lady hopes that the following information may not be 

" She remembers Dr. Johnson on a visit to Dr. Tay- 
lor, at Ashbourn, some time between the end of the 
year 37, and the middle of the year 40 ; she rather 
thinks it to have been after he and his wife were re- 
moved to London. During his stay at Ashbourn, he 
made frequent visits to Mr. Meynell, at Bradley, where 
his company was much desired by the ladies of the 
family, who were, perhaps, in point of elegance and 
accomplishments, inferiour to few of those with whom 
he was afterwards acquainted. Mr. Meynell's eldest 
daughter was afterwards married to Mr. Fitzherbert, 
father to Mr. Alleyne Fitzherbert, lately minister to the 
court of Russia. Of her, Dr. Johnson said, in Dr. 
Lawrence's study, that she had the best understanding 
fie ever met with in any human being. At Mr. Mey- 
nell's he also commenced that friendship with Mrs. 
Hill Boothby, sister to the present Sir Brook Boothby, 
which continued till her death. The young woman 
whom lie used to call Molly Aston, 7 was sister to Sir 
Thomas Aston, and daughter to a Baronet ; she was 
also sister to the wife of his friend, Mr. Gilbert Walms- 
ley. 8 Besides his intimacy with the above-mentioned 
persons, who were surely people of rank and education, 

7 The words of Sir John Hawkins, p. 316. 

8 [Sir Thomas Aston, Bart., who died in Janu, ry 1724-5, left one son, named 
Thomas also, and eight daughters. Of the daughters Catharine married Johnson's 
friend, the Hon. Henry Hervey ; Margaret, Gilbert Walmsley. Another of these 
ladies married the Rev. Mr. Gastrell. Mary, or Molly Aston, as she was usually 
called, became the wife of Captain Brodie of the Navy. Another sister, who was 
Vinmarried, was living at Lichfield in 1776, M,] 


while he was yet at Lichfield he used to be frequently 1732. 
at the house of Dr. Swinfen, a gentleman of very an- ^ t t 
eient family in Staffordshire, from which, after the 23. 
death of his elder brother, he inherited a good estate. 
He was, besides, a physician of very extensive practice ; 
but for want of due attention to the management <>;' 
his domestick concerns, left a very large family in indi- 
gence. One of his daughters. Mrs. Desmoulins, after- 
wards found an asylum in the house of her old friend, 
whose doors were always open to the unfortunate, and 
who well observed the precept of the Gospel, for he 
"was kind to the unthankful and to the evil." 

In the forlorn state of his circumstances, he accepted 
of an offer to be employed as usher in the school of 
Market-Bos worth, in Leicestershire, to which it appears, 
from one of his little fragments of a diary, that he went 
on foot, on the 1 6th of July. — " Julii 16. Bosvortiam 
pedes petit." But it is not true, as has been erroneons- 
Iv related, that he was assistant to the famous Anthonv 
Blackwall, whose merit has been honoured by the testi- 
mony of Bishop Hurd, 9 who was his scholar; for Mr. 
Blackwall died on the 8th of April, 1730, ' more than 
a year before Johnson left the University. 

This employment was very irksome to him in every 
respect, and he complained grievously of it in his letters 
to his friend, Mr. Hector, who was now settled as a 
surgeon at Birmingham. The letters are lost ; but Mr. 
Hector recollects his writing " that the poet had de- 
scribed the dull sameness of his existence in these 
words, ' Vitam continet una dies' (one day contains the 
whole of my life) ; that it was unvaried as the note of 
the cuckow r ; and that he did not know whether it was 
more disagreeable for him to teach, or the bovs to 
learn, the grammar rules. His general aversion to 

9 [There is here (as Mr. James Boswell observes to me) a slight inaccuracy 
Bishop Hurd, in the Epistle Dedicatory prefixed to his Commentary on Horace's 
. l it of Poetry, &c. does not praise Blackwall, but the Rev. Mr. Budworth, head- 
master of the grammar school at Brewood in Staffordshire, who had himself been 
fired under Blackwall. See vol. iii. near the end, where, from the information of 
Mr. John Nichols, Johnson is said to have applied in 17:36 to Mr. Budworth, to be 
received by him as an assistant in his school in Staffordshire. M.] 

: ,See Cent. Mag. Dec. 17S4, p. 957. 


1732. this painful drudgery was greatly enhanced by a disa- 
SaT greement between him and Sir Wolstan Dixie, the pat- 
03. ' ron of the school, in whose house, I have been told, he 
officiated as a kind of domestick chaplain, so far, at 
least, as to say grace at table, but was treated with 
what he represented as intolerable harshness ; and, 
after suffering for a few months such complicated mis- 
ery,* he relinquished a situation which all his life after- 
wards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and 
even a degree of honour. But it is probable that at 
this period, whatever uneasiness he may have endured, 
he laid the foundation of much future eminence by ap- 
plication to his studies. 

Being now again totally unoccupied, he was invited 
by Mr. Hector to pass some time with him at Birming- 
ham, as his guest, at the house of Mr. Warren, with 
whom Mr. Hector lodged and boarded. Mr. Warren 
was the first established bookseller in Birmingham, and 
was very attentive to Johnson, who he soon found 
could be of much service to him in his trade, by his 
knowledge of literature ; and he even obtained the as- 
sistance of his pen in furnishing some numbers of a 
periodical Essay printed in the newspaper, of which 
Warren was proprietor. After very diligent enquiry, I 
have not been able to recover those early specimens of 
that particular mode of writing by which Johnson af- 
terwards so greatly distinguished himself. 

He continued to live as Mr. Hector's guest for about 
six months, and then hired lodgings in another part of 
the town, 3 finding himself as well situated at Birming- 
ham as he supposed he could be any where, while he 
had no settled plan of life, and very scanty means of 
subsistence. He made some valuable acquaintances 
there, amongst whom were Mr. Porter, a mercer, 
whose widow he afterwards married, and Mr. Taylor, 

2 [It appears from a letter of Johnson's to a friend, which I have read, dated 
Lichfield, July 27, 1732, that he had left Sir Wolstan Dixie's house, recently be- 
fore that letter was written. He then had hopes of succeeding either as master or 
usher, in the school of Ashburne. M..] 

3 [In June 1733, Sir John Hawkins states, from one of Johnson's diaries, that 
he lodged in Birmingham at the house of a person named Jarvis, probably a rela- 
tion of Mrs. Porter, whom he afterwards married. M.] 



who by his ingenuity in mechanical inventions, and Ins 1 733 
success in trade, acquired an immense fortune. But j£^ 
the comfort of being near Mr. Hector, his old school- 24. 
fellow and intimate friend, was Johnson's chief induce- 
ment to continue here. 

In what manner he employed his pen at this period, 
or whether he derived from it any pecuniary advan- 
tage, I have not been able to ascertain. He probably 
got a little money from Mr. Warren ; and we are cer- 
tain, that he executed here one piece of literary labour, 
of which Mr. Hector has favoured me with a minute 
account. Having- mentioned that he had read at IVm- 
broke College a Voyage to Abyssinia, by Lobo, a Por- 
tuguese Jesuit, and that he thought an abridgment 
and translation of it from the French into English might 
be an useful and profitable publication, Mr. Warren 
and Mr. Hector joined in urging him to undertake it. 
He accordingly agreed ; and the book not being to be 
found in Birmingham, he borrowed it of Pembroke 
College. A part of the work being very soon done, 
one Osborn, who was Mr. Warren's printer, was set to 
work with what was ready, and Johnson engaged to 
supply the press with copy as it should be wanted ; 
but his constitutional indolence soon prevailed, and the 
work was at a stand. Mr. Hector, who knew that a 
motive of humanity would be the most prevailing argu- 
ment with his friend, went to Johnson, and represent- 
ed to him, that the printer could have no other em- 
ployment till this undertaking was finished, and that 
the poor man and his family were suffering. Johnson 
upon this exerted the powers of his mind, though his 
body was relaxed. He lay in bed with the book, 
which was a quarto, before him, and dictated while 
Hector wrote. Mr. Hector carried the sheets to the 
press, and corrected almost all the proof sheets, very 
few of which were even seen b.y Johnson. In this 
manner, with the aid of Mr. Hector's active friendship, 
the book was completed, and was published in 17 35, 
with London upon the title-page, though it was in r< 
ality printed at Birmingham, a device too common with 

72 1HE LI IK OF 

1733. provincial publishers. For this work he had from Mr. 

SaT Warren only the sum of five guineas. 
24. ' This being the first prose work of Johnson, it is a 
curious object of enquiry how much may be tiaced in 
it of that style which marks his subsequent writings 
with such peculiar excellence ; with so happy an union 
of force, vivacity, and perspicuit}\ I have perused the 
book with this view, and have found that here, as I 
believe in every other translation, there is in the work 
itself no vestige of the translator's own style ; for the 
language of translation being adapted to the thoughts 
of another person, insensibly follows their cast, and as 
it were runs into a mould that is ready prepared. 

Thus, for instance, taking the first sentence that oc- 
curs at the opening of the book, p. 4. " 1 lived here 
above a year, and completed my studies in divinity; in 
which time some letters were received from the fathers 
of Ethiopia, with an account that Sultan Segned, Em- 
perour of Abyssinia, was converted to the church of 
Rome ; that many of his subjects had followed his ex- 
ample, and that there was a great want of missionaries 
to improve these prosperous beginnings. Every body 
was very desirous of seconding the zeal of our fathers, 
and of sending them the assistance they requested ; to 
which we were the more encouraged, because the Em- 
perour's letter informed our Provincial, that we might 
easily enter his dominions by the way of Dancala ; 
but, unhappily, the secretary wrote Geila for Dancala, 
which cost two of our fathers their lives." Every one 
acquainted with Johnson's manner will be sensible that 
there is nothing of it here ; but that this sentence might 
have been composed by any other man. 

But, in the Preface, the Johnsonian style begins to 
appear ; and though use had not yet taught his wing a 
permanent and equable flight, there are parts of it 
which exhibit his best manner in full vigour. I had 
once the pleasure of examining it with Mr. Edmund 
Burke, who confirmed me in this opinion, by his supe- 
riour critical sagacity, and was, I remember, much de- 
lighted with the following specimen : 


• 4 The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general ] ' 
vein of his countrymen, has amused his reader with no jrtat. 
romantick absurdity, or incredible fictions ; whatever 24, 

he relates, whether true or not, is at least probable ; 
and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of 
probability, has a right to demand that tin \ should be- 
lieve him who cannot contradict him. 

" He appears by his modest and unaffected narra- 
tion, to have described things as he saw them, to have 
copied nature from the life, and to have consulted his 
senses, not his imagination. He meets with no basil- 
isks that destroy with their eyes, his crocodiles devour 
their prey without tears, and his cataracts fall from the 
rocks without deafening the neighbouring inhabitants. 

" The reader w 7 ill here find no regions cursed with 
irremediable barrenness, or blest with spontaneous fe- 
cundity ; no perpetual gloom, or unceasing sunshine ; 
nor are the nations here described either devoid of all 
sense of humanity, or consummate in all private or so- 
cial virtues. Here are no Hottentots without religious 
policy or articulate language ; no Chinese perfectly 
polite, and completely skilled in all sciences ; he will 
discover, what will always be discovered by a diligent 
and impartial enquirer, that wherever human nature is 
to be found, there is a mixture of vice and virtue, a 
contest of passion and reason ; and that the Creator 
doth not appear partial in his distributions, but has 
balanced, in most countries, their particular inconveni- 
ences by particular favours." 

Here we have an early example of that brilliant and 
energetick expression, which, upon innumerable occa- 
sions in his subsequent life, justly impressed the world 
with the highest admiration. 

Nor can anv one, conversant with the writings oi 
Johnson, fail to discern his hand in this passage of the 
Dedication to John Warren, Esq. of Pembrokeshire, 
though it is ascribed to Warren the bookseller. " A 
generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing 
more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity ; ' 
nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully 

< <pp Rambi er. No. 1G 1 

vor,. i, 10 


1734. employed, than in examining the laws and customs o( 
JJ^ foreign nations. I hope, therefore, the present I now 
25. presume to make, will not be thought improper ; which, 
however, it is not my business as a dedicator to com- 
mend, nor as a bookseller to depreciate." 

It is reasonable to suppose, that his having been thus 
accidentally led to a particular study of the history and 
manners of Abyssinia, was the remote occasion of his 
writing, many years afterwards, his admirable philo- 
sophical tale, the principal scene of which is laid in 
that country. 

Johnson returned to Lichfield early in 1734, and in 
August that year he made an attempt to procure some 
little subsistence by his pen ; for he published proposals 
for printing by subscription the Latin Poems of Foli- 
tian : s " Angeli Politiani Pocmuta Latini, quibus, No- 
tas cum historid Latina 3 poeseos, cl Petrarchce cevo ad 
Politiani tempora deducta, et vita Politiani Justus quam 
antehac enarrata, addidit Sam. Johnson/' 

It appears that his brother Nathanael had taken up 
his father's trade ; for it is mentioned that " subscrip- 
tions are taken in by the Editor, or N. Johnson, book- 
seller, of Lichfield." Notwithstanding the merit of 
Johnson, and the cheap price at which this book was 
offered, there were not subscribers enough to insure a 
sufficient sale ; so the work never appeared, and pro- 
bably, never was executed. 

We find him again this year at Birmingham, and 
there is preserved the following letter from him to Mr. 
Edward Cave, 7 the original compiler and editor of the 
Gentleman's Magazine : 

5 May we not trace a fanciful similarity between Puiitian, and Johnson ? Hu- 
etius, speaking of Paulus Pelissonius Fontanerius, says " — in quo Natura, ut olim 
in Angelo Politiano, deformitatem oris excellentis ingenii praestantia compensavit." 
Comment, de reb. ad eum pertin. Edit. Amstel. 1718. p. 1200. 

6 The book was to contain more than thirty sheets, the price to be two shillings 
and sixpence at the time of subscribing, and two shillings and sixpence at the de- 
livery of a perfect book in quires. 

7 Miss Cave, the grand-niece of Mr. Edw. Cave, has obligingly shewn me thr 
originals of this and the other letters of Dr. Johnson, to him, which were first pub- 
lished in the Gentleman's Magazine, with notes by Mr. John Nichols, the worthy and 
indefatigable editor of that valuable miscellany, signed N. : some of which I shaH 
occasionally transcribe in the course of this work. 


TO MR. CAVE. 1/34. 

" s tr, Nov. 25, 17.; I. *£££ 

" As you appear no- less sensible than your read- 25. 
ers of the defects of your poetical article, you will not 
be displeased, it", in order to the improvement of it, 1 
communicate to you tlte sentiments of a person, w ho 
will undertake, on reasonable terms, sometimes lo t0 
a column. 

" His opinion is, that the public would not give you 
a bad reception, it", beside the current wit of the month, 
which a critical examination would generally reduce to 
a narrow compass, you admitted not only poems, in- 
scriptions, &c. never printed before, which he will 
sometimes supply you with ; but likewise short lite- 
rarv dissertations in Latin or English, critical remarks 
on authors ancient or modern, forgotten poems that de- 
serve revival, or loose pieces, like l ; loyer's, 8 worth pr< - 
serving. By this method, your literary article, for so it 
might be called, will, he thinks, be better recommend- 
ed to the publick than by low jests, aukward buffoon- 
ery, or the dull scurrilities of either party. 

" If such a correspondence will be agreeable to you, 
be pleased to inform me in two posts, what the condi- 
tions are on which you shall expect it. Your iate of- 
fer 9 gives me no reason to distrust your generosity, li 
you engage in any literary projects besides this paper, I 
have other designs to impart, if 1 could be secure from 
having others reap the advantage of what I should hint. 

" Your letter by being directed to S. Smith, to be 
left at the Castle in Birmingham, Warwickshire, will 

" Y r our humble servant." 

Mr. Cave has put a note on this letter, " Answered 
Dec. 2/' But whether any thing was done in conse- 
quence of it we are not informed. 

Johnson had, from his early youth, been sensible to 
the influence of female charms. When at Stourbrid 

8 Sir John Floyer's Treatise on Cold Baths. Gent. Mag. 1734. p. 1!)T. 

9 A prize of fifty pounds for the best poem " on Life, Death, Judgement, Heav- 
m, and Hoi!. - ' See Gentleman's Magazine, vol. iv. p. 560. N. 



1734. school, he was much enamourecl of Olivia Lloyd, a 
jEtat! y oun & Quaker, to whom he^vrote a copy of verses, 
which I have not been able tQ recover ; but with what 
facility and elegance he could warble the amorous lay, 
^will appear from the following- lines which he wrote for 
friend Mr. Edmund Hector. 

erses to a Lady, on receiving from her a Sprig of 


" What hopes, what terrours does thy gift create, 
*' Ambiguous emblem of uncertain fate : 
The myrtle, ensign of supreme command, 
Consign'd by Venus to Melissa's hand ; 
Not less capricious than a reigning fair, 
Now grants, and now rejects a lover's prayer. 
In myrtle shades oft sings the happy swain, 
in myrtle shades despairing ghosts complain ; 
The myrtle crowns the happy lovers' heads, 
The unhappy lovers' grave the myrtle spreads : 
O then the meaning of thy gift impart, 
And ease the throbbings of an anxious heart ! 
Soon must this bough, as you shall fix his doom, 
Adorn Philander's head, or grace his tomb." 1 

' Mrs. Piozzi gives the following account of this little composition from Dr. 
Johnson's own relation to her, on her inquiring whether it was rightly attributed 
to him — " I think it is now just forty years ago, that a young fellow had a sprig 
of myrtle given him by a girl he courted, and asked me Po write him some verses 
that he might present her in return. I promised, but forgot ; and when he called 
for his lines at the time agreed on — Sit still a moment, (says I) dear Mund, and I'll 
fetch them thee — So stepped aside for five nunutes, and wrote the nonsense you 
now keep such a stir about." Anecdotes, p. 34. 

In my first edition I was induced to doubt the authenticity of this account, by 
the following circumstantial statement in a letter to me from Miss Seward, of Lich- 
field : — " I knoiv those verses were addressed to Lucy Porter, when he was enam-r 
oured of her in his boyish days, two or three years before he had seen her Moth- 
er, his future wife. He wrote them at my grandfather's, and gave them to Lucy 
in the presence of my mother, to whom he showed them on the instant. She used 
to repeat them to me, when I asked her for the Verses Dr. "Johnson gave her on a 
Sprig of Myrtle, -which he had stolen or begged from her bosom. We all know honest 
Lucy Porter to have been incapable of the mean vanity of applying to herself a 
compliment not intended for her." Such was this lady's statement, which I make 
no doubt she supposed to be correct ; but it shows how dangerous it is to trust 
too implicitly to traditional testimony and ingenious inference ; for Mr. Hector 
has lately assured me that Mrs. Piozzi's account is in this instance accurate, and 
that he was the person for whom Johnson wrote those verses, which have been 
erroneously ascribed to Mr. Hammond. 

I am obliged in so many instances to notice Mrs. Piozzi's incorrectness of relation, 
that I gladly seize this opportunity of acknowledging, that however often, she is 
not always inaccurate. 


His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were, how- 1734. 
ever, very transient ; and it is certain, that he formed JT^ 
no criminal connection whatsoever. Mr. 1 lector, who 25.* 
lived with him in his younger days in tin* utmost inti- 
macy and social freedom, has assured me, that even at 
that ardent season his conduct was strictly virtuous in 
that respect ; and that though he loved to exhilarate 
himself with wine, he never knew him intoxicated but 

In a man whom religious education has secured from 
licentious indulgences, the passion of love, when once 
it has seized him, is exceedingly strong ; being unim- 
paired by dissipation, and totally concentrated in one 
object. This was experienced by Johnson, when he 
became the fervent admirer of Mrs. Porter, after her 
first husband's death. 1 Miss Porter told me, that when 
he was first introduced to her mother, his appearance 
was very forbidding : he was then lean and lank, so 
that his immense structure of bones was hideously strik- 
ing to the eye, and the scars of the scrophula were deep- 
ly visible. He also wore his hair, which was straight 

The author having been drawn into a controversy with Miss Anna Seward, in 
consequence of the preceding statement, (which may be found in " the Gentle- 
man's Magazine," Vol. lxiii and lxiv,) received the following letter from Mr. Ed- 
mund Hector, on the subject : 


" I am sorry to see you are engaged in altercation with a Lady, who seems 
unwilling to be convinced of her errors. Surely it would be more ingenuous to 
acknowledge than to persevere. 

" Lately, in looking over some papers I meant to burn, I found the original 
manuscript of the myrtle, with the date on it, 1731, which I have inclosed. 

'• The true history (which I could swear to) is as follows : Mr. Morgan Graves, 
(lie elder brother of a worthy Clergyman near Bath, with whom I was acquainted, 
waited upon a Lady in this neighbourhood, who at parting presented him the 
branch. He shewed it me, and wished much to return the compliment in verse. 
I applied to Johnson, who was with me, and in about half an hour dictated the 
verses which I sent to my friend. 

" I most solemnly declare, at that time, Johnson was an entire stranger to the 
Porter family ; and it was almost two years after that I introduced him to the ac- 
quaintance of Porter, whom I bought my cloaths of. 

" If you intend to convince this obstinate woman, and to exhibit to the publick 
the truth of your narrative, you are at liberty to make what use you please of this 

" I hope you will pardon me for taking up so much of your time. Wishing 
you multos et /dices anno;, I shall subscribe myself 

" Your obliged humble servant, 

" Birmingham, Jan. 9th, 1 794. " E. HECTOR." 

2 r lt appears, from Mr. Hector's letter, that Johnson became acquainted with 
Jnet three years before he married her. M.] 


1734, and stiff, and separated behind : and he often had, 
jE t ^ seemingly, convulsive starts and odd gesticulations, 
25. ' which tended to excite at once surprise and ridicule. 
Mrs. Porter was so much engaged by his conversation 
that she overlooked all these external disadvantages, 
and said to her daughter, " this is the most sensible 
man that I ever saw in my life." 

Though Mrs. Porter was double the age of John- 
son, 3 and her person and manner, as described to me 
by the late Mr. Garrick, were by no means pleasing to 
others, 4 she must have had a superiority of understand- 
ing and talents, 5 as she certainly inspired him with a 

3 [Mrs. Johnson's maiden name was Jervis. — Though there was a great dispar- 
ity of years between her and Dr. Johnson, she was not quite so old as she is here 
represented, being only at the time of her marriage in her forty-eighth year, as 
appears by the following extract from the parish register of Great Peatling in 
Leicestershire, which was obligingly made, at my request, by the Hon. and Rev. 
Mr. Ryder, Rector of Lutterworth, in that county : 

"Anno Dom. 1688-[9.] Elizabeth, the daughter of William Jervis, Esq. and 
Mrs. Anne his wife, born the fourth day of February and mane, baptized 16th day 
of the same month by Mr. Smith, Curate of Little Peatling. 

" John Allen, Vicar." 

Tho family of Jervis, Mr. Ryder informs me, once possessed nearly the whole 
lordship of Great Peatling, (about 2000 acres,) and there are many monuments of 
them in the Church ; but the estate is now much reduced. The present repre- 
sentative of this ancient family is Mr. Charles Jervis, of Hinckley, Attorney at 
Law. M.] 

4 [That in Johnson's eyes she was handsome, appears from the epitaph which 
he caused to be inscribed on her tomb-stone not long before his own death, and 
which may be found in a subsequent page, under the year 1752. M.] 

5 [The following account of Mrs. Johnson, and her family, is copied from a pa- 
per (chiefly relating to Mrs. Anna Williams) written by Lady Knight, at Rome, 
and transmitted by her to the late John Hoole, Esq. the translator of Metastasio, 
&c. by whom it was inserted in the European Magazine for October 1 799 : 

" Mrs. Williams's account of Mrs. Johnson was, that she had a good understand- 
ing, and great sensibility, but inclined to be satirical. Her first husband died in- 
solvent ; her sons were much disgusted with her for her second marriage, perhaps 
because they being struggling to get advanced in life, were mortified to think she 
had allied herself to a man who had not any visible means of being useful to them ; 
however, she always retained her affection for them. While they [Dr. and Mrs. 
Johnson] resided in Gough Square, her son, the officer, knocked at the door, and 
asked the maid, if her mistress was at home. She answered, ' Yes, Sir ; but she is 
sick in bed.' O, says he, ' if it's so, tell her that her son Jervis, called to know how 
she did :' and was going away. The maid begged she might run up to tell her 
mistress, and without attending his answer, left him. Mrs. Johnson enraptured to 
hear her son was below, desired the maid to tell him she longed to embrace him. 
When the maid descended, the gentleman was gone, and poor Mrs. Johnson was 
much agitated by the adventure : it was the only time he ever made an effort to 
see her. Dr. Johnson did all he could to console his wife, but told Mrs. Williams, 
' Her son is uniformly undutiful ; so I conclude, like many other sober men, he 
might once in his life be drunk, and in that fit nature got the better of his pride. 

The following anecdotes of Dr. Johnson are recorded by the same lady : 


more than ordinary passion; and she having signified 17S6. 
her willingness to accept of his hand, he went to Lich- ^JTJ* 
field to ask his mother's consent to the marriage, which 27. 
he could not but be conscious was a very imprudent 
scheme, both on account of their disparity of y< ars, and 
her want of fortune. But Mrs. Johnson knew too well 
the ardour of her son's temper, and was too tender a 
parent to oppose his inclinations. 

I know not for what reason the marriage ceremony 
was not performed at Birmingham; but a resolution 
w r as taken that it should be at Derby, for which place 
the bride and bridegroom set out on horseback, I sup- 
pose in very good humour. But though Mr. Topham 
Beauclerk used archlv to mention Johnson's having 
told him, with much gravity, "Sir, it was a love mar- SKb 
riage on both sides/' 1 have had from my illustrious Ju, . v - 
friend the following curious account of their journey to 
church upon the nuptial morn : — " Sir, she had react 
the old romances, and had got into her head the fan- 
tastical notion that a woman of spirit should use her 
lover like a dog. So, Sir, at first she told me that I 
rode too fast, and she could not keep up with me ; and, 
when I rode a little slower, she passed me, and com- 
plained that I lagged behind. 1 was not to be made 
the slave of caprice ; and I resolved to begin as I meant 
to end. I therefore pushed on briskly, till 1 was fairly 
out of her sight. The road lay between two hedges, 
so I was sure she could not miss it ; and I contrived 
that she should soon come up with me. When she 
did, 1 observed her to be in tears." 

" One day that he came to my house to meet many ether;, we to'.d him that we 
had arranged our party to go to Westminster Abbey : would not he go with us ? 
' N'o,' he replied, ' not -while I can keep out.' 

" Upon our saying that the friends of a lady had been in great fear lest she 
should make a certain match, he said, ' We that are bis friends have had great fear* 
lor him.' 

" Dr. Johnson's political principles ran high, both in church and state : he wish- 
ed power to the King and to the Heads of the Church, as the laws of England 
have established ; but I know he di liked absolute power ; and I am very sure ot 
his disapprobation of the doctrines of the church of Rome ; because about three 
weeks before we came abroad, he said to my Cornelia, ' you are going where the 
ostentatious pomp of church ceremonies atti acts the imagination ; but if they v, 
to persuade you to change, you must remember, time by increasing your faith, you 
may be persuaded to become Turk.' If these were not ■' ^. I have kept w» 

to the express meaning." M.] 


1736. This, it must be allowed, was a singular begKnninsf of 
^ tat< connubial felicity ; but there is no doubt that Johnson, 
27. though he thus shewed a manly firmness, proved a 
most affectionate and indulgent husband to the last mo- 
ment of Mrs. Johnson's life : and in his " Prayers and 
Meditations," we find very remarkable evidence that 
his regard and fondness for her never ceased, even after 
her death. 

He now set up a private academy, for which purpose 
he hired a large house, well situated near his native 
city. In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1736, there is 
the following advertisement: "At Edial, near Lich- 
field, in Staffordshire, young gentlemen are boarded 
and taught the Latin and Greek languages, by Samuel 
Johnson." But the only pupils that were put under 
his care were the celebrated David Garrick and his 
brother George, and a Mr. Offely, a young gentleman 
of good fortune, who died early. As yet, his name had 
nothing of that celebrity which afterwards commanded 
the highest attention and respect of mankind. Had 
such an advertisement appeared after the publication of 
his London, or his Rambler, or his Dictionary, 
how would it have burst upon the world ! with what ea- 
gerness would the great and the wealthy have embraced 
an opportunity of putting their sons under the learned 
tuition of Samuel Johnson. The truth, however, is, 
that he was not so well qualified for being a teacher ot 
elements, and a conductor in learning by regular grada- 
tions, as men of inferiour powers of mind. His own 
acquisitions had been made by fits and starts, by vio- 
lent irruptions in the regions of knowledge; and it 
could not be expected that his impatience would be 
subdued, and his impetuosity restrained, so as to fit 
him for a quiet guide to novices. The art of communi- 
cating instruction, of whatever kind, is much to be 
valued ; and I have ever thought that those who de- 
vote themselves to this employment, and do their duty 
with diligence and success, are entitled to very high 
respect from the community, as Johnson himself often 
maintained. Yet I am of opinion, that the greatest 
abilities are not only not required for this office, but 
render a man less fit for it. 


While we acknowledge the justness of Thomson's •' 

beautiful remark, S«rt! 

" Delightful task ! to rear the t< nder thought, 

" And teach the young idea how to shoot !" 

we must consider that this delight is perceptible only 
by "a mind at ease/' a mind at once calm and clear; 
but that a mind gloomy and impetuous like of 
Johnson, cannot be fixed for any length of time in mi- 
nute attention, and must be so frequently irritated 
by unavoidable slowness and errour in the advances of 
scholars, as to perform the duty, with little pleasure to 
the teacher, and no great advantage to the pupils. 
Good temper is a most essential requisite in a Pre- 
ceptor. Horace paints the character as bland : 

" Ut pilaris oVnn dant crust ula blandi 

" Doctores, elementa velint id at see re prima.' 

Johnson was not more satisfied with his situation 
the master of an academy, than with that of the usher 
of a school ; we need not wonder, therefore, that he 
did not keep his academy above a year and a hall'. 
From Mr. Garrick's account he did not appear to ha 
been profoundly reverenced by his pupils. His oddi- 
ties of manner, and uncouth gesticulations, could not 
but be the subject of merriment to them ; and in par- 
ticular, the young rogues used to listen at the door of his 
bed-chamber, and peep through the key-hole, that th 
might turn into ridicule his tumultuous and awkward 
fondness for Mrs. Johnson, whom he used to name by 
the familiar appellation of Tetty or Tetsey, which, like 
Betty or Betsey, is provincially used as a contraction 
for Elizabeth, her christian name, but which to us seems 
ludicrous, when applied to a woman of her age and ap- 
pearance. Mr. Garrick described her to me as ver) 
fat, with a bosom of more than ordinary protuberance 
with swelled cheeks, of a florid red, produced by thick 
painting,' and increased by the liberal use of cordials ; 
flaring and fantastick in her dress, and affected both in 
her speech and her general behaviour. L have seen 
Garrick exhibit her, by his exquisite talent of mimick- 

VOL. I. 1 1 


1736. ry ? so as to excite the heartiest bursts of laughter ; bur 
jEt^ he, probably, as is the case in all such representations, 
27. considerably aggravated the picture. 

That Johnson well knew the most proper course to 
be pursued in the instruction of youth, is authentically 
ascertained by the following paper in his own hand- 
writing, given about this period to a relation, and now 
in the possession of Mr. John Nichols: 

" Scheme for the Classes of a Grammar School. 

" When the introduction, or formation of nouns and 
verbs, is perfectly mastered, let them learn 

" Corderius by Mr. Clarke, beginning at the same 
time to translate out of the introduction, that by this 
means they may learn the syntax. Then let them pro- 
ceed to 

" Erasmus, with an English translation, by the same 

" Class II. Learns Eutropius and Cornelius Nepos, 
or Justin, with the translation. 

" N. B. The first class gets for their part every 
morning the rules which they have learned before, and 
in the afternoon learns the Latin rules of the nouns 
and verbs. 

" They are examined in the rules which they have 
learned, every Thursday and Saturday. 

" The second class does the same whilst they are in 
Eutropius ; afterwards their part is in the irregular 
nouns and verbs, and in the rules for making and 
scanning verses. They are examined as the first. 

" Class 111. Ovid's Metamorphoses in the morning, 
and Caesar's Commentaries in the afternoon. 

" Practise in the Latin rules till they are perfect in 
them ; afterwards in Mr. Leed's Greek Grammar. Ex- 
amined as before. 

"Afterwards they proceed to Virgil, beginning at 
the same time to write themes and verses, and to learn 
Greek ; from thence passing on to Horace, &c. as shall 
seem most proper. 

" 1 know not well what books to direct you to, be- 
cause you have not informed me what study you will 


apply yourself to. 1 believe it will be most for your iTSfl. 
advantage to apply yourself wholly to the languages, jr ta t 
till you go to the university. The Greek authours I i~. 
think it best for you to read arc these : 

" Cebes. 

" /Elian. ~) 

" Lueian by Leeds. > Attiek. 

" Xenophon. ) 

" Homer, Ionick. 

" Theocritus. Dorick. 

" Euripides. Attiek and Dorick. 

" Thus you will be tolerably skilled in all the dia- 
lects, beginning with the Attiek, to which the r< 
must be referred. 

" In the study of Latin, it is proper not to read the 
latter authours, till you are well versed in those of ti 
purest ages ; as Terence, Tully, Caesar, Sallust, Nepos, 
Velleius Paterculus, Virgil, Horace, Phaedrus. 

" The greatest and most necessary task still remains. 
to attain a habit of expression, without which knowl- 
edge is of little use. This is necessary in Latin, and 
more necessary in English ; and can only be acquired 
by a daily imitation of the best and correctest authours. 

" Sam. Johnson." 

While Johnson kept his academy, there can be no 
doubt that he was insensibly furnishing his mind with 
various knowledge ; but I have not discovered that he 
wrote any thing except a great part of his tragedy of 
Irene. Mr. Peter Garrick, the elder brother of David, 
told me that he remembered Johnson's borrowing the 
Turkish History of him, in order to form his play from it. 
When he had finished some part of it, he read what he 
had done to Mr. Walmsley, who objected to his having 
already brought his heroine into great distress, and ask- 
ed him, " how can you possibly contrive to plunge hei 
into deeper calamity !" Johnson, in sly allusion to the 
supposed oppressive proceedings of the court of which 
Mr. Walmsley was registrar, replied, " Sir, 1 can pul 
her into the Spiritual Court !" 

Mr. Walmsley, however, was well pleased with this 
oroofof Johnson's abilities as a dramatick writer, and 


1737. advised him to finish the tragedy, and produce it on 

JEut. the 8ta £ e - 
28. Johnson now thought of trying his fortune in London, 
the great held of genius and exertion, where talents of 
every kind have the fullest scope, and the highest en- 
couragement. It is a memorable circumstance that his 
pupil David Garrick went thither at the same time, 6 
with intent to complete his education, and follow the 
profession of the law, from which he was soon diverted 
by his decided preference for the stage. 

This joint expedition of those two eminent men to 
the metropolis, was many years afterwards noticed in 
an allegorical poem on Shakspeare's Mulberry tree, by 
Mr. Lovibond, the ingenious authour of " The Tears of 

They were recommended to Mr. Colson, 7 an emi- 
nent mathematician and master of an academy, by the 
following letter from Mr. Walmsley : 

To the Reverend Mr. Colson. 

" dear sir, Lichfield, March 2, 1737, 

4 I had the favour of yours, and am extremely 
obliged to you ; but I cannot say I had a greater affec- 
tion for you upon it than 1 had before, being long since 

6 Both of them used to talk pleasantly of this their first journey to London. 
Garrick, evidently meaning to embellish a little, said one day in my hearing-, ' we 
rode and tied.' And the Bishop of Killaloe, [Dr. Barnard,] informed me, that at 
another time, when Johnson and Garrick were dining together in a pretty lar°-e 
company, Johnson humorously ascertaining the chronology of something, express- 
ed himself thus : " that was the year when I came to London with two-pence 
half-penny in my pocket." Garrick overhearing him, exclaimed, " eh ? what do 
you say ? with two-pence half-penny in your pocket ?" — Johnson, " Why, yes ; 
when I came with two-pence half-penny in my pocket, and thou, Davy, with three 
half-pence in thine." 

7 [The Reverend John Colson was bred at Emmanuel Colledge in Cambridge, 
and in 1728, when George the Second visited that University, was created Master 
of Arts. About that time he became First Master of the Free School at Rochester, 
founded by Sir Joseph Williamson. In 1739, he was appointed Lucasian Profess- 
or of Mathematicks in the University of Cambridge, on the death of Professor 
Sanderson, and held that office till 1759, when he died. He published Lectures 
on Experimental Philosophy, translated from the French of lAbbe Nodet, 8vo. 
1732, and some other tracts. Our author, it is believed, was mistaken in stating 
him to have been Master of an Academy. Garrick, probably, during his short 
residence at Rochester, lived in his house as a private pupil. 

The character of Gelidus, the philosopher, in the Rambler, (No. 24) was meant 
to represent this gentleman. See Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes, &c. p. 49. M.] 


so much endeared to you, as well by an early friend- l ~ 3 ~- 
ship, as by your many excellent and valuable qualifica- ^^ 
tions ; and, had I a son of my own, it would be my am- 
bition, instead of sending him to the University, to dis- 
pose of him as this young gentleman is. 

" I [e, and another neighbour of mine, one Mr. Sam- 
uel Johnson, set out this morning for London together. 
Davy Garrick is to be with vou early the nexl week, 
and Mr. .Johnson to try his fate with a tragedy, and to 
see to get himself employed in some translation, either 
from the Latin or the French. Johnson is a very good 
scholar and poet, and I have great hopes will turn out a 
fine tragedy-writer. If it should any way lie in your 
way, doubt not but you would be ready to recommend 
and assist your countryman. 

" G. Walmslei " 

i low he employed himself upon his first coming to 
London is not particularly known. 5 I never heard 
that he found anv protection or encouragement l>v the 
means of Mr. Colson, to whose academy Davit! t rarrick 
went. Mrs. Lucy Porter told me, that Mr Walmsley 
gave him a letter of introduction to Lintot his booksel- 
ler, and that Johnson wrote some things for him ; but I 
imagine this to be a mistake, for I have discovered no 
trace of it, and 1 am pretty sure he told me, that Mr. 
Cave was the first publisher by whom his pen was en- 
gaged in London. 

He had a little money when he came 1 to town, and 
he knew how he could live in the cheapest manner. 
His first lodgings were at the house of Mr. N orris, a 
staymaker, in Exeter-street, adjoining Catharine-street, 
in the Strand. " 1 dined (said he) very well for eight- 
pence, with very good company, at the Pirn -Apple in 
New-street, just by. Several of them had travelled. 
They expected to meet every day : but did not know 
one another's names. It used to cost the rest a shil- 
ling, for they drank wine ; but 1 had a eut of meat for 

8 One curious anecdote was communicated by himself to Mr. John Nichols. 
Mr. Wilcox, the bookseller, on being informed by him that his intention v as to 
get his livelihood as an authour, eyed his robust frame attentively, and with a sig- 
nificant look, said, " You had better buy a porter's knot." He however added, 

Wilcox was one of my bf?t friends." 



'737. six-pence, and bread for a penny, and gave the waiter a 
Mat. P enn y ; so that I was quite well served, nay, better 
28. than the rest, for they gave the waiter nothing." 

He at this time, I believe, abstained entirely from 
fermented liquors : a practice to which he rigidly con- 
formed for many years together, at different periods of 
his life. 

His Ofellus in the Art of living in London, I have 
heard him relate, was an Irish painter, whom he knew 
at Birmingham, and who had practised his own pre- 
cepts of economy for several years in the British capi- 
tal. He assured Johnson, who, 1 suppose, was then 
meditating to try his fortune in London, but was appre- 
hensive of the expence, " that thirty pounds a year 
was enough to enable a man to live there without being 
contemptible. He allowed ten pounds for cloaths and 
linen. He said a man might live in a garret at eigh- 
teen-pence a week ; few people would inquire where 
he lodged ; and if they did, it was easy to say, ' Sir, I 
am to be found at such a place.' By spending three- 
pence in a coffee-house, he might be for some hours 
every day in very good company ; he might dine for 
six-pence, breakfast on bread and milk for a penny, and 
do without supper. On c lean-shir t-day he went abroad, 
and paid visits." I have heard him more than once 
talk of his frugal friend, whom he recollected with es- 
teem and kindness, and did not like to have one smile 
at the recital, " This man (said he, gravely) was a 
very sensible man, who perfectly understood common 
affairs : a man of a great deal of knowledge of the world, 
fresh from life, not strained through books. He bor- 
rowed a horse and ten pounds at Birmingham. Find- 
ing himself master of so much money, he set off for 
West Chester, in order to get to Ireland. He return- 
ed the horse, and probably the ten pounds too, after he 
got home." 

Considering Johnson's narrow circumstances in the 
early part of his life, and particularly at the interesting 
aera of his launching into the ocean of London, it is 
not to be wondered at, that an actual instance, proved 
by experience, of the possibility of enjoying the intel- 


lectual luxury of social life upon a very small income, l 737. 
should deeply engage his attention, and be ever recol- "T.T 

l i 1 i • • r i /t-tat. 

lected by linn as a circumstance oi much importance, as. 
He amused himself, 1 remember, by computing how 
much more expence was absolutely necessary to live 
upon the same scale with that which his friend d< scrib- 
ed, when the value of money was diminished In tin- 
progress of commerce. It may be estimated that 
double the money might now with diifi< ult) be suffi- 

Amidst this cold obscurity, there was one brilliant 
circumstance to cheer him ; he was well acquainted 
with Mr. Henry Hervey, 9 one of the branches of the 
noble family of that name, who had been quartered at 
Lichfield as an officer of the army, and had at this time 
a house in London, where Johnson was frequently en- 
tertained, and had an opportunity of meeting genteel 
company. Not very long before his death, he men- 
tioned this, among other particulars of his life, which 
he was kindly communicating' to me ; and he describ- 
ed this early friend " Harry Hervey," thus : ' ; He 
was a vicious man, but very kind to me. If you call a 
dog Hervey, I shall love him." 

He told me he had now written only three acts of 
his Irene, and that he retired for some time to lodsr- 
ings at Greenwich, where he proceeded in it some- 
what further, and used to compose, walking in the 
Park ; but did not stay long enough at that place to 
finish it. 

At this period we find the following letter from him 
to Mr. Edward Cave, which, as a link in the chain of 
his literary history, it is proper to insert : 

' The Honourable Henry Hervey, third son of the first Earl of Bristol, quitted 
the army and took orders. He married a bister of Sir Thomas Aston, by whom 
he got the Aston Estate, and assumed the name and arms of that family. 

Vide Collins's Peerage. 

[The Honourable Henry Hervey was nearly of the same age with Johnson, hav- 
ing been born about nine months before him, in the year 1 709. He man 
Catharine, the sister of Sir Thomas Aston, in 17:i!> ; and as that lady had seven 
sisters, she probably succeeded to the Aston Estate on the deatli of her brother un- 
der his will. Mr. Hervey took the degree of Master of Arts at Cambridge, at the 
late age of thirty-five, in 1744 ; about which time, it is bettered, he entered inta 
holy orders. M.] 


1737- " TO MR. CAVE. 

" Greenwich, next door to the Golden Heart, 
u Church-street, July 12, 1737. 

" Having observed in your papers very uncom- 
mon offers of encouragement to men of letters, I have 
chosen, being a stranger in London, to communicate to 
you the following design, which, I hope, if you join in 
it, will be of advantage to both of us. 

" The History of the Council of Trent having been 
lately translated into French, and published with large 
Notes by Dr. Le Courayer, the reputation of that book 
is so much revived in England, that, it is presumed, a 
new translation of it from the Italian, together with Le 
Courayer's Notes from the French, could not fail of a 
favourable reception. 

" If it be answered, that the History is already in 
English, it must be remembered, that there was the 
same objection against Le Courayer's undertaking, 
with this disadvantage, that the French had a version 
by one of their best translators, whereas you cannot 
read three pages of the English History without discov- 
ering that the style is capable of great improvements ; 
but whether those improvements are to be expected 
from the attempt, you must judge from the specimen, 
which, if you approve the proposal, I shall submit to 
your examination. 

" Suppose the merit of the versions equal, we may 
hope that the addition of the Notes will turn the bal- 
ance in our favour, considering the reputation of the 

" Be pleased to favour me with a speedy answer, if 
you are not willing to engage in this scheme ; and ap- 
point me a day to wait upon you, if you are. 

" I am, Sir, 

" Your humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

It should seem from this letter, though subscribed 
with his own name, that he had not yet been introduced 
to Mr. Cave. We shall presently see what was done in 
consequence of the proposal which it cont&ir^ 


In the course of the summer he returned to Lich- 1737. 
field, where he had left Mrs. Johnson, and there he at ]" t ^ 
last finished his tragedy, which was not executed with jg. 
his rapidity of composition upon other occasions, but 
was slowly and painfully elaborated. A few days be- 
fore his death, while burning a gnat mass of papers, he 
picked out from among - them the original unformed 
sketch of this tragedy, in his own hand-writing, and gave 
it to Mr. Langton, by whose favour a copy of it is now 
in my possession. It contains fragments of the intend- 
ed plot, and speeches for the different persons of the 
drama, partly in the raw materials of prose, partly 
worked up into verse ; as also a variety of hints for il- 
lustration, borrowed from the Greek, Roman, and 
modern writers. The hand-writing is very difficult to 
be read, even by those who were besl acquainted with 
Johnson's mode of penmanship, which at all times was 
very particular. The King having graciously accepted 
of this manuscript as a literary curiosity, Mr. Langton 
made a fair and distinct copy of it, which he ordered 
to be bound up with the original and the printed tra- 
gedy ; and the volume is deposited in the King's libra- 
ry. His Majesty was pleased to permit Mr. Langton 
to take a copy of it for himself. 

The whole of it is rich in thought and imagery, and 
happy expressions ; and of the disjecta membra scat- 
tered throughout, and as vet unarranged, a good dram- 
atic poet might avail himself with considerable advan- 
tage. I shall give my readers some specimens of dif- 
ferent kinds, distinguishing them by the italick char- 

Nor think to say here will I stop, 
Here will I fix the limits of transgression. 
Nor farther tempt the avenging rage of heaven. 
When guilt like this once harbours in the breast. 
Those holu beings, whose /a/seat direction 
Guides through the maze of life the steps of man, 
" Flij the detested mansions of impiety, 
" And quit their charge to horrour and to ruin. 3 ' 

vol. 1. 1? 



1737. A small part only of this interesting admonition is 
preserved in the play, and is varied, I think, not to ad- 
vantage : 

" The soul once tainted with so foul a crime, 

' ; No more shall glow with friendship's hallovv'd ardour. 

" Those holy beings whose superior care 

' ; Guides erring mortals to the paths of virtue, 

" Affrighted at impiety like thine, 

" Resign their charge to baseness and to ruin." 

" I feel the soft infection 
" Flush in my check, and wander in my veins. 
''' Teach me the Grecian arts of soft persuasion" 

" Sure this is love, which heretofore I conceived the 
dream of idle maids, and wanton poets" 

" Though no comets or prodigies foretold the ruin of 
Greece, signs which heaven must bij another miracle en- 
able us to understand, yet might it be fores hewn, bi/ to- 
kens no less certain, by the vices which always bring it 

This last passage is worked up in the tragedy itself, 
as follows : 


That power that kindly spreads 

" The clouds, a signal of impending showers, 
' : To warn the wand'ring linnet to the shade, 
iS Beheld, without concern, expiring Greece, 
" And not one prodigy foretold our fate. 


" A thousand horrid prodigies foretold it ; 

" A feeble government, eluded laws, 
A factious populace, luxurious nobles, 
And all the maladies of sinking states. 
When publick villainy, too strong for justice, 
Shews his bold front, the harbinger of ruin, 
Can brave Leontius call for airy wonders, 
Which cheats interpret, and which fools regard '? 
When some neglected fabrick nods beneath 




" The weight of years, and totters to the tempest, 17 '■: ■ 
" Musi heaven despatch the messengers of light, "J^ 
" Or wake the dead, to warn us of its fall \" 

Mahomet. (t<> Irene.) " / have tried thee, and 

joy to /tin! tlail thou deservest to he loved bij Mahomet, — 
zvith a mind great as his own. Sure, thou art an er- 
rour of' nature, and an execution to the rest of thy se i . 
and art immortal ; for sentiments like thine were m ver 
to sink info nothing:. I thought all the thoughts of the 
fair had been to seleet the graces of the day, dispose the 
colours of the flaunting (flowing) robe, tune the voice and 
roll the eye, place the gem, choose the dress, and mid 
new roses to the fading cheek, but — sparkling." 

Thus in the tragedy : 

" Illustrious maid, new wonders fix me thine ; 

Thy soul completes the triumphs of thy face ; 

I thought, forgive my fair, the noblest aim. 

The strongest effort of a female soul 
" Was but to choose the graces of the da\ , 
" To tune the tongue, to teach the eves to roll. 
" Dispose the colours of the flowing robe, 
" And add new roses to the faded cheek." 

I shall select one other passage, on account of the 
doctrine which it illustrates. Irene observes, " that 
the Supreme Being will accept of virtue, whatever oul- 
zcard circumstances it may be accompanied with, and may 
be delighted with varieties of zvorship : but is answer- 
ed ; That variety cannot afjeet that Being, who, infinite- 
ly happy in his own perfect ions, wants no external grati- 
fications ; nor can infinite truth be delighted with false- 
hood ; that though he may guide or pity those he leaves 
in darkness, he abandons those who shut their eyes 
against the beams of day " 

Johnson's residence at Lichfield, on his return to it 
at this time, w T as only for three months ; and as he had 
as yet seen but a small part of the wonders of the Me- 
tropolis, he had little to tell his townsmen. 1 [e related 
to me the following minute anecdote of this period : 
" In the last age, when my mother lived in London, 


1737. there were two sets of people, those who gave the wall, 
Stau anc * ^ose who took it ; the peaceable and the quarrel- 
28. some. When I returned to Lichfield, after having been 
in London, my mother asked me, whether I was one of 
those who gave the wall, or those who took it. Nozv it 
is fixed that every man keeps to the right ; or, if one is 
taking the wall, another yields it ; and it is never a dis- 
pute." 1 

He now removed to London with Mrs. Johnson ; 
but her daughter, who had lived with them at Edial, 
was left with her relations in the country. His lodg- 
ings were for some time in Woodstock-street, near 
Hanover-square, and afterwards in Castle-street, near 
Cavendish-square. As there is something pleasingly 
interesting, to many, in tracing so great a man through 
all his different habitations, I shall, before this work is 
concluded, present my readers with an exact list of his 
lodgings and houses, in order of time, which, in placid 
condescension to my respectful curiosity, he one eve- 
ning dictated to me, but without specifying how long 
he lived at each. In the progress of his life 1 shall have 
occasion to mention some of them as connected with 
particular incidents, or with the writing of particular 
parts of his works. To some, this minute attention 
may appear trilling ; but when we consider the punctil- 
ious exactness with which the different houses in which 
Milton resided have been traced by the writers of his 
life, a similar enthusiasm may be pardoned in the biog- 
rapher of Johnson. 

His tragedy being by this time, as he thought, com- 
pletely finished and fit for the stage, he was very desir- 
ous that it should be brought forward. Mr. Peter 
Garrick told me, that .Johnson and he went together to 
the Fountain tavern, and read it over, and that he after- 
wards solicited Mr. Fleetwood, the patentee of Drury- 
Jane theatre, to have it acted at his house ; but Mr. 
Fleetwood would not accept it, probably because it was 
not patronized by some man of high rank ; and it was 
not acted till 1749, when his friend David Garrick was 
manager of that theatre. 

1 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 2:32. 


The Gentleman's Magazine, begun and carried 1737. 
on by Mr. Edward Cave, under the name of Sylvanus ^^ 
Urban, had attracted the notice and esteem of John- 
son, in an eminent degree, before he came to London 

as an adventurer in literature. 1 le told me, that when 
he first saw St. John's Gate, the place where thai deserv- 
edly popular miscellany was originally printed, he "be- 
held it with reverence." 1 suppose, indeed, that every 
young authour has had the same kind of feeling for th< 
magazine or periodical publication which has first enter- 
tained him, and in which he has first had an opportu- 
nity to see himself in print, without the risk of exposing 
his name. I myself recollect such impressions from 
" The Scots Magazine," which was begus at Edin- 
burgh in the year 17:39, and has been ever conducted 
with judgement, accuracy, and propriety. I yet cannot 
help thinking of it with an affectionate regard. Johnson 
has dignified the Gentleman's Magazine, by the import- 
ance with which he invests the life of Cave ; but he 
has given it still greater lustre by the various admirable 
Essays which he wrote for it. 

Though Johnson was often solicited by his friends to 
make a complete list of his writings, and talked of doing 
it, 1 believe with a serious intention that they should all 
be collected on his own account, he put it off from yeai 
to year, and at last died without having done it perfect- 
ly. I have one in his own hand-writing, which contains 
a certain number ; 1 indeed doubt if he could have r< - 
membered everyone of them, as they were so numer- 
ous, so various, and scattered in such a multiplicity of 
unconnected publications ; nay, several of them pub- 
lished under the names of other persons, to whom he 
liberally contributed from the abundance of his mind. 
We must, therefore, be content to discover them, parti} 
from occasional information given by him to his friends, 
and partly from internal evidence. 2 

2 While in the course of my narrative I enumerate his writings, 1 shall take care 
that my readers shall not be left to waver in doubt, between certainty and conj - 
ture, with regard to their authenticity ; and, for that purpose, shall mark w ith 
asterisk (*) those which he acknowledged to his friends, and with a dagg, r \ 
which are ascertained to be his by internal evidence. When any other pi< 
ascribed to him, I shall give my reasons. 

94 l HE LIFE OP 

1738. His first performance in the Gentleman's Magazine, 
a?TT which for many years was his principal source for em- 
29. ployment and support, was a copy of Latin verses, in 
March 17.38, addressed to the editor in so happy a style 
of compliment, that Cave must have been destitute 
both of taste and sensibility, had he not felt himself 
highly gratified. 

Ad Urbanum.* 

Urbane, nullis Jesse laboribus, 
Urbane, nullis vide calumniis, 
Cut f route sertum in eruditd 
Perpetub viret et virebit ; 

Quid moliatur gens imitantium, 
Quid et minetur, solicitus paritm, 
Vacare soils perge Musis, 
Juxta animo studiisque Jelix. 

Linguae procacis plumbea spicula, 
Fidens, super bo J'range silent io ; 
Victrix per obstantes catervas 
Sedulitas animosa tendet. 

Iniende nervos,fortis, inanibus 
Risurus olim nisibus cemuli ; 
Intende jam nervos, habebis 
Participes operce Camoonas. 

Non ulla Musis pagina gratior, 
Quam quae severis ludicra jungere 
Novit, fatigatamque nugis 
Utilibus recreare mentem. 

Texente Nymphis serta Lucoride, 
Rosce ruborem sic viola adjuvat 
Immista, sic Iris refulget 
JElhereis variatafucis. 3 

' A translation of this Ode, by an unknown correspondent^ appeared in tlv 
Magazine for the month of May following : 

" Hail Urban ! indefatigable man, 
ft Unwearied yet by all thy useful toil ! 

" Whom num'rous slanderers assault in vain : 
" Whom no base calumny can put to foil. 


It appears that he was now enlisted by Mr. Cave as 1738. 
a regular coadjutor in his magazine, by winch he prob- arJCT 
ably obtained a tolerable livelihood. At what time, ig, 
or by what means, he had acquired acompetenl knowl- 
edge both of French and Italian, I do not know ; l>ut 
he was so well skilled in them, as to be sufficiently 
qualified tor a translator. 'That pari of his labour w Inch 
consisted in emendation and improvement of the pro- 
ductions of other contributors, like that employed in 
levelling ground, can be perceived only by those who 
had an opporunity of comparing the original with the 
altered copy. What we certainly know to have been 
done by him in this way, was the debates in both houses 
of Parliament, under tin; name of "The Senate of Lil- 
iiput," sometimes with feigned denominations of the 

" But still the laurel on thy learned brow 
" Flourishes fair, and shall for ever grow. 

" What mean the servile imitating crew, 
" What their vain blust'ring, and their empty noise 

" Ne'er seek : but still thy noble ends pursue, 
" Unconquer'd by the rabble's venal voice. 

" Still to the Muse thy studious mind apply, 

" Happy in temper as in industrj. 

" The senseless sneerings of an haughty tongue, 
" Unworthy thy attention to engage, 

" Unheeded pass : and tho' they mean thee \vn 
•' By manly silence disappoint their rage. 

" Assiduous diligence confounds its foes, 

"^Resistless, tho' malicious crouds oppose. 

" Exert thy powers, nor slacken in the course. 
" Thy spotless fame shall quash all false reports 

" Exert thy powers, nor fear a rival's force, 
" But thou shalt smile at all his vain efforts ; 

" Thy labours shall be crown'd with large succt 

" The Muse's aid thy Magazine shall bless. 

" No page more grateful to th' harmonious nint 
" Than that wherein thy labours we survey; 

" Where solemn themes in fuller splendour shine, 
" (Delightful mixture,) blended with the gay, 

" Where in improving, various joys we find, 

" A welcome respite to the wearied mind. 

" Thus when the nymphs in some fair verdant mead, 
" Of various flow'rs a beauteous wreath compose, 

" The lovely violet's azure-painted head 
" Adds lustre to the crimson-blushing rose. 

" Thus splendid Iris, with her varied dye, 

" Shine, in the sether and -Jorns the slrv. ■ BRITOX. " 

96 THE LIFE 01 

1738. several speakers, sometimes with denominations formed 
JEtat! of the letters of their real names, in the manner of what 
29. is called anagram, so that they might easily be decy- 
phered. Parliament then kept the press in a kind of 
mysterious awe, which made it necessary to have re- 
course to such devices. In our time it has acquired an 
unrestrained freedom, so that the people in all parts of 
the kingdom have a fair, open, and exact report of the 
actual proceedings of their representatives and legisla- 
tors, which in our constitution is highly to be valued ; 
though, unquestionably, there has of late been too much 
reason to complain of the petulance with which obscure 
scribblers have presumed to treat men of the most re- 
spectable character and situation. 

This important article of the Gentleman's Magazine 
was, for several years, executed by Mr. William Gu- 
thrie, a man who deserves to be respectably recorded in 
the literary annals of this countrv. He was descended 
of an ancient family in Scotland ; but having a small 
patrimony, and being an adherent of the unfortunate 
house of Stuart, he could not accept of any office in the 
state ; he therefore came to London, and employed his 
talents and learning as an " Authour by profession." 
His writings in history, criticism, and politicks, had 
considerable merit.* He w r as the first Lns;lish histo- 
rian who had recourse to that authentick source of in- 
formation, the Parliamentary Journals ; and such was 
the power of his political pen, that, at an early period, 
Government thought it worth their while to keep it 
quiet by a pension, which he enjoyed till his death. 
Johnson esteemed him enough to wish that his life 
should be written. The debates in Parliament, which 
were brought home and digested by Guthrie, whose 
memory, though surpassed by others who have since 
followed him in the same department, was yet very 
quick and tenacious, were sent by Cave to Johnson 
for his revision ; and, after some time, when Guthrie 

4 How much poetry he wrote, I know not : but he informed me that he was the 
authour of the beautiful little piece, " The Eagle and Robin Redbreast," in the col- 
lection of poems entitled, " The Union," though it is there said to be written b r 
Archibald Scott, before the year 1600 


had attained to greater variety of employment, and the 1738. 
speeches were more and more enriched by the ;i, '~^,^' 
cession of Johnson's genius, it was resolved that lie 29. 
should do the whole himself, from the scant) notes 
furnished by persons employed to attend in both 
houses of Parliament. Sometimes, however, as he 
himself told me, he had nothing more communicated 
to him than the names of the several speakers, and the 
part which they had taken in the debate. 

Thus was .Johnson employed dining some of the best 
years of his life, as a mere literary labourer " for gain, 
not glory," solely to obtain an honest support. He 
however indulged himself in occasional little sallies, 
which the French so happily express by the termj'eux 
d'esprit, and which will be noticed in their order, in 
the progress of this work. 

But what first displayed his transcendent powers, 
and " gave the world assurance of the Man," was his 
" London, a Poem, in Imitation of the Third Satire 
of Juvenal ;" which came out in May this year, and 
burst forth with a splendour, the rays of which will for 
ever encircle his name. Boileau had imitated the 
same satire with great success, applying it to Pans : 
but an attentive comparison will satisly every reader, 
that he is much excelled by the English Juvenal. 
Oldham had also imitated it, and applied it to Lon- 
don : all which performances concur to prove, that 
great cities, in every age, and in every country, will 
furnish similar topicks of satire. Whether Johnson 
had previously read Oldham's imitation, I do not 
know ; but it is not a little remarkable, that there is 
scarcely any coincidence found between the two per- 
formances, though upon the very same subject. The 
only instances are, in describing London as the sink of 
foreign worthlessness : 

•' the commo?t s/iore, 

" Where France does all her filth and ordure pour ; 


•' The common shore of Paris and of Rome." 


vol. 1. 13 


1738. an( j 


JEtat. " ^° ca lbng °r profession comes amiss, 
29. " A needy monsieur can be what he please." 

" All sciences a fasting monsieur knows." 


The particulars which Oldham has collected, both 
as exhibiting - the honours of London, and of the times, 
contrasted with better days, are different from those of 
Johnson, and in general well chosen, and well ex- 
prest. s 

There are, in Oldham's imitation, many prosaick 
verses and bad rhymes, and his poem sets out with a 
strange inadvertent blunder : 

" Tho' much concern'd to leave my dear old friend. 
" I must, however, his design commend 
" Of fixing- in the country ." 

It is plain he was not going to leave his friend ; his 
friend was going to leave him. A young lady at once 
corrected this with good critical sagacity, to 

" Tho' much concern'd to lose mv dear old friend.'' 

There is one passage in the original, better trans- 
fused by Oldham than by Johnson : 

" Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se, 
" Qudm quod ridiculos homines Jacit." 

which is an exquisite remark on the galling meanness 
and contempt annexed to poverty : Johnsons imita- 
tion is, 

" Of all the griefs that harass the distrest, 
" Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest." 

5 I own it pleased me to find amongst them one trait of the manners of the agt 
in London, in the last century, to shield from the sneer of English ridicule, what 
was some time ago too common a practice in my native city of Edinburgh ! 

" If what I've said can't from the town affright, 

" Consider other dangers of the night ; 

" When brickbats are from upper stories thrown, 

" And emptied chamberpots come psuring down 

" From garret ivindeivs." 


Oldham's, though 1< ss elegant, is more just ; '738. 

" Nothing in poverty so ill is borne, 

" As its exposing men to grinning scorn." 

Where, or in what manner this poem was composed, 
1 am sorry that I neglected to ascertain with precision, 
from Johnson's own authority. He has marked upon 
his corrected copy of the first edition of it, " Written 
in 1738 ;" and, as it was published in the month of 
May in that year, it is evident that much time was not 
employed in preparing it for the press. The history of 
its publication I am enabled to give in a very satis- 
factory 7 manner : and judging: from myself, and manv of 
my friends, I trust that it will not be uninteresting to 
my readers. 

We may be certain, though it is not expressly named 
in the following letters to Mr. Cave, in 1738, that the) 
all relate to it : 


"Castle-street, Wednesday Morning. 
; sir, [No date: 1738.] 

" When I took the liberty of writing to you a few 
days ago, I did not expect a repetition of the same 
pleasure so soon ; for a pleasure 1 shall always think it, 
to converse in any manner with an ingenious and can- 
did man ; but having the inclosed poem in my hands 
to dispose of for the benefit of the authour, (of whose 
abilities I shall say nothing, since 1 send you his per- 
formance,) 1 believed I could not procure more ad- 
vantageous terms from any person than from you. 
who have so much distinguished yourself by your gen- 
erous encouragement of poetry ; and whose judgement 
of that art nothing but your commendation of my 
trifle 6 can give me any occasion to call in question. \ 
do not doubt but you will look over this poem with 
another eye, and reward it in a different manner, from 
a mercenary bookseller, who counts the lines he is to 
purchase, and considers nothing but the bulk. 1 can- 

His Ode « Ad Urbanum," probably. N. 

flCAe.OC i> 


1738. not help taking notice, that, besides what the authour 
jsuJ' may hope for on account of his abilities, he has like- 
29. ' wise another claim to your regard, as he lies at present 
under very disadvantageous circumstances of fortune. 
I beg, therefore, that you will favour me with a letter 
to-morrow, that I may know what you can afford to 
allow him, that he may either part with it to you, or 
find out, (which I do not expect,) some other way more 
to his satisfaction. 

" I have only to add, that as I am sensible I have 
transcribed it very coarsely, which, after having altered 
it, i was obliged to do, I will, if you please to transmit 
the sheets from the press, correct it for you ; and take 
the trouble of altering any stroke of satire which you 
may dislike. 

" By exerting on this occasion your usual generosity, 
you will not only encourage learning, and relieve dis- 
tress, but (though it be in comparison of the other mo- 
tives of very small account) oblige in a very sensible 
manner, Sir, 

" Your very humble servant, 

" Sam. Johxsox." 


"sir, "Monday, No. 6, Cast lest reel. 

" I am to return you thanks for the present you 
were so kind as to send by me, and to intreat that you 
will be pleased to inform ine by the penny-post, 
whether you resolve to print the poem. If you please 
to send it me by the post, with a note to Dodsley, I 
will go and read the lines to him, that we may have 
his consent to put his name in the title-page. As to 
the printing, if it can be set immediately about, I will 
be so much the authour's friend, as not to content my- 
self with mere solicitations in his favour. 1 propose, 
if my calculation be near the truth, to engage for the 
reimbursement of all that you shall lose by an impres- 
sion of 500 ; provided, as you very generously propose, 
that the profit, if any, be set aside for the authour's use, 
excepting the present you made, which, if he be a 


gainer, it is lit he should repay. I beg that you will 1738. 
let one of your servants unto an exacl account of the ^ t '^ 
expence of such an impression, and scud it with the 29. 
poem, that 1 may know what 1 engage for. 1 am very 
sensible, from your generosity on this occasion, of your 
regard to learning, even in its unhappiest state ; and 
cannot but think such a temper deserving of the grati- 
tude of those who sutler so often from a contrary dispo- 
sition. I am. Sir, 

" Your most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

" to mr. cave. 

"SIR, [JVo date.'] 

" I waited on you to take the copy to Dodsley's: 
as 1 remember the number of lines which it contains, 
it will be no longer than Eugenio, 7 with the quota- 
tions, which must be subjoined at the bottom of the 
page ; part of the beauty of* the performance (if any 
beauty be allowed it) consisting in adapting Juvenal's 
sentiments to modern facts and persons. It will, with 
those additions, very conveniently make five sheets. 
And since the expence will be no more, 1 shall content- 
edly insure it, as I mentioned in my last. If it be 
not therefore gone to Dodsley's, 1 besj it may be sent 
me by the penny-post, that I may have it in the even- 
ing. I have composed a Greek Epigram to Eliza. 8 
and think she ought to be celebrated in as many dif- 
ferent lano-nages as Lewis le Grand. Pray send me 
w r ord when you will begin upon the poem, lor it is a 
long way to walk. I would leave my Epigram, but 
have not day-light to transcribe it. I am, Sir, 

•• Your's, &c. 

" Sam. Johnson." 

A poem, published in 1737, of which see an account in vol. ii. under April 
;0, 1773. 

8 [The learned Mrs. Elizabeth Carter. This lady, of whom frequent mention 
will be found in these Memoirs, was daughter of Nicholas Carter, D. D. She died 
:n Clarges-=treot. Feb. IP, 1806, in her eighty-ninth year. M.] 



" sir, [No date.] 

" I am extremely obliged by your kind letter, and 
will not fail to attend you to-morrow with Irene, who 
looks upon you as one of her best friends. 

" I was to-day with Mr. Dodsley, who declares very 
warmly in favour of the paper you sent him, which he 
desires to have a share in, it being, as he says, a cred- 
itable thing to be concerned in. I knew not what an- 
swer to make till I had consulted you, nor what to de- 
mand on the authour's part, but am very willing that, 
if you please, he should have a part in it, as he will 
undoubtedly be more diligent to disperse and promote 
it. If you can send me word to-morrow what 1 shall 
say to him, I will settle matters, and bring the poem 
with me for the press, which as the town empties, we 
cannot be too quick with. 1 am, Sir, 

" Your's, &c. 

" Sam. Johnson." 

To us who have long known the manly force, bold 
spirit, and masterly versification of this poem, it is a 
matter of curiosity to observe the diffidence with which 
its authour brought it forward into publick notice, while 
he is so cautious as not to avow it to be his own pro- 
duction : and with what humility he offers to allow the 
printer to " alter any stroke of satire which he might 
dislike." That any such alteration, was made, we do 
not know. If we did, we could not but feel an indig- 
nant regret ; but how painful is it to see that a writer 
of such vigorous powers of mind was actually in such 
distress, that the small profit which so short a poem, 
however excellent, could yield, was courted as a " re- 

It has been generally said, I know not with what 
truth, that Johnson offered his " London" to several 
booksellers, none of whom would purchase it. To this 
circumstance Mr. Derrick alludes in the following lines 
of his " Fortune, a Rhapsody :' 




" Will no kind patron .Johnson own '. 1738?. 

" Shall Johnson friendless range the town .' 
" And every publisher refuse 

" The offspring of his happy Muse V 

But we have seen that the worthy, modest, and infire- 
nious Mr. Robert Dodsley had taste enough to per- 
ceive its uncommon merit, and thought it creditable to 
have a share in it. The fact is, that, at a future con- 
ference, he bargained for the whole property of it, tor 
which he gave Johnson ten guineas; who told me, " 1 
might perhaps have accepted of less ; but that Paul 
Whitehead had a little before got ten guineas for a 
poem ; and 1 would not take less than Paul White- 

1 may here observe, that Johnson appeared to me to 
undervalue Paul Whitehead upon every occasion when 
he was mentioned, and, in my opinion, did not do him 
justice; but when it is considered that Paul White- 
head was a member of a riotous and profane club, we 
may account for Johnson's having a prejudice against 
him. Paul Whitehead was, indeed, unfortunate in be- 
ing not only slighted by Johnson, but violently at- 
tacked by Churchill, who utters the following impre- 
cation : 

" May I (can worse disgrace on manhood fall?) 
" Be born a Whitehead, and baptized a Paul \" 

vet I shall never be persuaded to think meanly of the 
authour of so brilliant and pointed a satire as " Man- 

Johnson's " London" was published in May, 17JS;" 9 
and it is remarkable, that it came out on the same 

* Sir John Hawkins, p. 86, tells us, " The event is antedated, in the poem of 
c London ;' but in every particular, except the difference of a year, what ii there 
said of the departure of Thales, must be understood of Savage, and looked upon 
as true history" This conjecture is, I believe, entirely groundless. I have been 
assured that Johnson said he was not so much as acquainted with Savage, when 
he wrote his " London." If the departure mentioned in it was the departure ot 
Savage, the event was not antedated but foreseen , for " London" was published in 
May, 1738, and Savage did not set out for Wales till July, 17:!!). However well 
Johnson could defend the credibility of second sigti, he did not prrtcsd that he 
himself was possessed of that faculty. 


1738. morning with Pope's satire, entitled " 1738 ;" so that 
ijE^ England had at once its Juvenal and Horace as poet- 
og. ical monitors. The Reverend Dr. Douglas, now Bish- 
op of Salisbury, to whom I am indebted for some 
obliging communications, was then a student at Ox- 
ford, and remembers well the effect which " London" 
produced. Every body was delighted with it; and 
there being no name to it, the first buz of the literary 
circles was, " here is an unknown poet, greater even 
than Pope." And it is recorded in the Gentleman's 
Magazine of that year, « that it " got to the second edi- 
tion in the course of a week." 

One of the warmest patrons of this poem on its first 
appearance was General Oglethorpe, whose "strong- 
benevolence of soul" was unabated durinsr the course 
of a very long life; though it is painful to think, that 
he had but too much reason to become cold and cal- 
lous, and discontented with the world, from the neglect 
which he experienced of his publick and private worth, 
by those in whose power it was to gratify so gallant a 
veteran with marks of distinction. This extraordinary 
person was as remarkable for his learning and taste, as 
for his other eminent qualities ; and no man was more 
prompt, active, and generous, in encouraging merit. I 
have heard Johnson gratefully acknowledge, in his 
presence, the kind and effectual support which he gave 
to his " London," though unacquainted with its au- 

Pope, who then filled the poetical throne without a 
rival, it may reasonably be presumed, must have been 
particularly struck by the sudden appearance of such a 
poet ; and, to his credit, let it be remembered, that his 
feelings and conduct on the occasion were candid and 
liberal. He requested Mr. Richardson, son of the 
painter, to endeavour to find out who this new authour 
was. Mr. Richardson, after some inquiry, having in- 
formed him that he had discovered only that his nam* 

[The assertion that Johnson was not even acquainted with Savage, when he 
published his " London," may be doubtful. Johnson took leave of Savage when 
he went to Wales in 1739, and must have been acquainted with him bsfor- 
fhat period. See. his Life of Savage. A > Page 2<S° 


was Johnson, and that he was some obscure man, Pope '738. 
said, "He will sunn be deterre." We shall presently g t t 

see, from a note written by Pope, that Ik- was himself 29. 
afterwards more successful in his inquiries than his 

That in this justly-celebrated poem may be found a 
few rhymes which the critical precision of English 
prosody at this day would disallow, cannot be denied ; 
but with this small imperfection, which in the general 
blaze of its excellence is not perceived, till the mind 
lias subsided into cool attention, it is, undoubtedly, one 
of the noblest productions in our language, both for 
sentiment and expression. The nation was then in 
that ferment against the Court and the Ministry, which 
some years after ended in the downfall of Sir Robert 
Walpole ; and as it has been said, that Tories are. 
Whigs when out of place, and Whigs Tories when in 
place ; so, as a Whig Administration ruled with what 
force it could, a Tory Opposition had all the animation 
and all the eloquence of resistance to power, aided by 
the common topicks of patriotism, liberty, and inde- 
pendence ! Accordingly, we find in Johnson's " Lon- 
don" the most spirited invectives against tyranny and 
oppression, the warmest predilection for his own coun- 
try, and the purest love of virtue; interspersed with 
traits of his own particular character and situation, not 
omitting his prejudices as a " true-born Englishman," 1 
not only against foreign countries, but against Ireland 
and Scotland. On some of these topicks i shall quote 
a few passages : 


" The cheated nation's happy fav'rites see ; 

" Mark whom the great caress, who frown on me. 

" Has heaven reserv'd, in pity to the poor, 
" No pathless waste, or undiscover'd shore ! 

Sir Joshua Reynolds, from the information of the younger Richardson. 

3 It is, however, remarkable, that he nse^ the epithet, which undoubtedly, since 
the union between England and Scotland, ought to denominate the natives <• 
both parts of our island : 

" Was earlv taught a Briton's right= to prize.' 

VOL. T- 1 1- 


173s. « J\ secret island in the boundless main ? 
/EtdU " ^° Peaceful desart yet unclaimed by Spain ? 
29. " Quick let us rise, the happy seats explore, 
" And bear Oppression's insolence no more." 

" How, when competitors like these contend, 
" Can surly Virtue hope to find a friend V s 

" This mournful truth is every where confess'd, 
"Slow rises worth, by poverty depressed !" 

We may easily conceive with what feeling a great 
mind like his, cramped and galled by narrow circum- 
stances, uttered this last line, which he marked by cap- 
itals. The whole of the poem is eminently excellent, 
and there are in it such proofs of a knowledge of the 
world, and of a mature acquaintance with life, as can- 
not be contemplated without wonder, when we con- 
sider that he was then only in his twenty-ninth year, 
and had yet been so little in the " busy haunts of men." 

Yet, while we admire the poetical excellence of this 
poem, candour obliges us to allow, that the flame of 
patriotism and zeal for popular resistance with which 
it is fraught, had no just cause. There was, in truth. 
no " oppression ;" the " nation" was not " cheated." 
Sir Robert Walpole was a wise and a benevolent minis- 
ter, who thought that the happiness and prosperity of 
a commercial country like ours, would be best pro- 
moted by peace, which he accordingly maintained with 
credit, during a very long period. Johnson himself 
afterwards honestly acknowledged the merit of Wal- 
pole, whom he called " a fixed star ;" while he charac- 
terised his opponent, Pitt, as " a meteor." But John- 
son's juvenile poem was naturally impregnated with 
the fire of opposition, and upon every account was uni- 
versally admired. 

Though thus elevated into fame, and conscious of 
uncommon powers, he had not that bustling confidence, 
or, I may rather say, that animated ambition, which 
one might have supposed would have urged him to en- 
deavour at rising in life. But such was his inflexible 


dignity of character, that he could not stoop to court ■ 
the great; without which, hardly any man lias made JJTJ" 

his way to a high station. Ho could not expect to >,). 
produce many such works as his "London," and he 
felt the hardships of writing- for bread ; ho was ' herefore, 
willing to resume the office of a schoolmaster, so as to 
have a sure, though moderate income tor his life; and 
an offer being made to him of the mastership of a 
school, + provided he could obtain the degree of Master 
of Arts, Dr. Adams was applied to, by a common 
friend, to know whether that could be granted him ;i- 
a favour from the University of Oxford. J3ut though 

4 In a billet written by Mr. Pope in the following year, this school is said te 
have been in Shropshire ; but as it appears from a letter from Earl Cower, that 
the trustees of it were " some worthy gentlemen in Johnson's neighbourhood," 
I in my first edition suggested that Pope must have, by mistake, written Shrop- 
shire, instead of Staffordshire. But I have since been obliged to Mr. Spearing, 
attorney-at-law ; for the following information : — " William Adams, formerly 
citizen andihaberdasher of London, founded a school at Newport, in the county 
of Salop, by deed dated 27th November, 1656, by which he granted ' the yearly 
sum of sixty founds to such able and learned schoolmaster, from time to time, being 
of godly life and conversation, who should have been educated at one of the Uni- 
versities of Oxford or Cambridge, and had taken the degree of Master of Arts, and 
was well read in the Greek and Latin tongues, as should be nominated from time 
to time by the said William Adams, during his life, and after the decease of the said 
William Adams by the governours (namely, the Master and Wardens of the Hab- 
erdashers' Company of the City of London) and their successors.' The manour 
and lands out of which the revenues for the maintenance of the school were to is- 
sue are situate at Knighton and Adiaston, in the- county of Stafford." From the tore- 
going account of this foundation, particularly the circumstances of the salary being 
sixty pounds, and the degree of Master of Arts being a requisite qualification in the 
teacher, it seemed probable that this was the school in contemplation ; and that 
Lord Gower erroneously supposed that the gentlemen who possessed the lands, out 
of which the revenues issued, were trustees of the charity. 

Such was probable conjecture. But in " the Gentleman's Magazine" for May, 
1793, there is a letter from Air. Henn, one of the masters of the school of Appleby, 
in Leicestershire, in which he writes as follows : 

" I compared time and circumstance together, in order to discover whether the 
school in question might not be this of Appleby. Some of the trustee- at that peri- 
od were ' worthy gentlemen of the neighbourhood of Lichfield.' Appleby itself is 
not far from the neighbourhood of Lichfield : the salary, the degree requisite, to- 
gether with the time of election, all agreeing with the statutes of Appleby. Theelei - 
tion, as said in the letter, ' could not be delayed longer than the 1 1th of next month,' 
which was the 1 1th of September, just three months after the annual audit-day of 
Appleby school, which i ; always on the 1 1th of June : and the statutes enjoin, nt 
xllius praceptorum electio diutius t> ihuj mensibus moraretur, &C. 

" These I thought to be convincing proofs that my conjecture was -Kit ill-founded, 
and that, in a future edition of that book, the circumstance might be recorded as 

" But what banishes every shadow of doubt is the Minute-Loot of the school, which 
declares the head-mastership to be at that time vacant." 

I cannot omit returning thanks to this learned gentleman for the very handsome 
maimer in which he has in that letter been so good as to speak of this work. 


1738. he had made such a figure in the literary world, it was 

jEtaT. tnen thought too great a favour to be asked. 

29. Pope, without any knowledge of him but from his 

" London," recommended him to Earl Gower, who 

endeavoured to procure for him a degree from Dublin, 

by the following letter to a friend of Dean Swift : 

" SIR, 

" Mr. Samuel Johnson (authour of London, a 
satire, and some other poetical pieces) is a native of 
this country, and much respected by some worthy 
gentlemen in his neighbourhood, who are trustees of a 
charity-school now vacant ; the certain salary is sixty 
pounds a year, of which they are desirous to make him 
master ; but, unfortunately, he is not capable of receiv- 
ing their bounty, which would make him happy for life, 
by not being a Master of Arts ; which, by the statutes 
of this school, the master of it must be. 

" Now these gentlemen do me the honour to think 
that 1 have interest enough in you, to prevail upon you 
to write to Dean Swift, to persuade the University of 
Dublin to send a diploma to me, constituting this poor 
man Master of Arts in their University. They highly 
extol the man's learning and probity ; and will not be 
persuaded, that the University will make any difficulty 
of conferring such a favour upon a stranger, if he is 
recommended by the Dean. They say, he is not afraid 
of the strictest examination, though he is of so long a 
journey ; and will venture it, if the Dean thinks it 
necessary ; choosing rather to die upon the road, than 
be starved to death in translating for booksellers ; 
which has been his only subsistence for some time 

" I fear there is more difficulty in this affair, than 
those good-natured gentlemen apprehend ; especially 
as their election cannot be delayed longer than the i lth 
of next month. If you see this matter in the same 
light that it appears to me, I hope you will burn this, 
and pardon me for giving you so much trouble about 
an impracticable thing ; but, if you think there is a 
probability of obtaining the favour asked, I am sure 


your humanity, and propensity to relieve merit in dis- J 738. 
tress, will incline you to serve the poor man, without ^J^ 
my adding any more to the trouble I have already given 29. 
you, than assuring you that 1 am, with great truth, >>ir, 

" Your faithful servant, 

" Gower." 
" Trentham, Aug. 1, 17:39." 

It was perhaps no small disappointment to Johnson 
that this respectable application had not the desired 
effect ; vet how much reason has there been, both for 
himself and his country, to rejoice that it did not suc- 
ceed, as he might probably have wasted in obscurity 
those hours in which he afterwards produced his in- 
comparable works. 

About this time he made one other effort to eman- 
cipate himself from the drudgery of auth our ship. He 
applied to Dr. Adams, to consult Dr. Smalbroke of the 
Commons, whether a person might be permitted to 
practise as an advocate there, without a doctor's degree 
in Civil Law. " 1 am (said he) a total stranger to these 
studies ; but whatever is a profession, and maintains 
numbers, must be within the reach of common abilities, 
and some degree of industry." Dr. Adams was much 
pleased with Johnson's design to employ his talents in 
that manner, being confident he would have attained 
to great eminence. And, indeed, I cannot conceive a 
man better qualified to make a distinguished figure as a 
lawyer ; for, he would have brought to his profession a 
rich store of various knowledge, an uncommon acute- 
ness, and a command of language, in which few could 
have equalled, and none have surpassed him. I le who 
could display eloquence and wit in defence of the de- 
cision of the House of Commons upon Mr. Wilkes's 
election for Middlesex, and of the unconstitutional 
taxation of our fellow-subjects in America, must have 
been a powerful advocate in any cause. But here, also, 
the want of a degree was an insurmountable bar. 

He was therefore, under the necessity of persevering 
in that course, into which he had been forced ; and we 
find, that his proposal from Greenwich to Mr. Cave, for 


1738. a translation of Father Paul Sarpi's History, was ae- 

JEtaT ce P tecL s 
29. ' Some sheets of this translation were printed off, but 

the design was dropt ; for it happened, oddly enough, 
that another person of the name of Samuel Johnson, 
Librarian of St. Martin's in the Fields, and Curate of 
that parish, engaged in the same undertaking, and was 
patronised by the Clergy, particularly by Dr. Pearce, 
afterwards Bishop of Rochester. Several light skir- 
mishes passed between the rival translators, in the 
news-papers of the day ; and the consequence was 
that they destroyed each other, for neither of them 
went on with the work. It is much to be regretted, 
that the able performance of that celebrated genius 
Fra Paolo, lust the advantage of being incorporated 
into British literature by the masterly hand of Johnson. 
I have in my possession, by the favour of Mr. John 
Nichols, a paper in Johnson's hand-writing, entitled 
" Account between Mr. Edward Cave and Sam. John- 
son, in relation to a version of Father Paul, &c. begun 
August the 2d, 1738 ;" by which it appears, that from 
that day to the 21st of April, 1739, Johnson received 
for this work .,£.49 7s. in sums of one, two, three, and 
sometimes four guineas at a time, most frequently two. 
And it is curious to observe the minute and scrupu- 
lous accuracy with which Johnson had pasted upon it 
a slip of paper, which he has entitled " Small account," 
and which contains one article, " Sept. 9th, Mr. Cave 
laid down 2s. 6d." There is subjoined to this account, 

•> In the Weekly Miscellany, October 21, 1738, there appeared the following ad- 
vertisement : " Just published, proposals for printing the History of the Council of 
Trent, translated from the Italian of Father Paul Sarpi ; with the Authour's Life, 
and Notes theological, historical, and critical, from the French edition of Dr. Le 
Courayer. To which are added, Observations on the History, and Notes and Il- 
lustrations from various Authours, both printed and manuscript. By S. Johnson. 
1. The work will consist of two hundred sheets, and be two volumes in quarto, print- 
ed on good paper and letter. 2. The price will be 1 8s: each volume, to be paid, half 
a guinea at the delivery of the first volume, and the rest at the delivery of the sec- 
ond volume in sheets. 3. Two-pence to be abated for every sheet less than two 
hundred. It may be had on a large paper, in three volumes, at the price of three 
guineas ; one to be paid at the time of subscribing, another at the delivery of the 
first, and the rest at the delivery of the other volumes. The work is now in the 
press, and will be diligently prosecuted. Subscriptions are taken in by Mr. Dods- 
ley in Pali-Mall, Mr. Rivington in St. Paul's Church-yard, by E. Cave at St. John's 
Gate, and the Translator, at No. 6, in Castle-street, by Cavendish-square." 

DR. JOHNSON. 1 1 1 

a list of some subscribers to the work, partly in John- 17*8. 

son's hand-writing, partly in that of another person ; ayTCT 
and there follows a leaf or two <»n which arc written a jo. 
number of characters which have the appearance of a 
short hand, which, perhaps, Johnson was then trying 
to learn. 



sir, Wednesday. 

" 1 did not care to detain your servant while I 
wrote an answer to your letter, in which yon seem to 
insinuate that 1 had promised more than 1 am ready to 
perform. If 1 have raised your expectations by any 
thing that may have escaped my memory, 1 am sorry ; 
and if you remind me of it, shall thank you for the 
favour. If I made fewer alterations than usual in the 
Debates, it was only because there appeared, and still 
appears to be, less need of alteration. The verses to 
Lady Firebrace 6 may be had when you please, for you 
know that such a subject neither deserves much 
thought, nor requires it. 

" The Chinese Stories 7 may be had folded down 
when you please to send, in which I do not recollect 
that you desired any alterations to be made. 

" An answer to another query 1 am very willing to 
write, and had consulted with you about it last night, 
if there had been time ; for 1 think it tin most proper 
way of inviting such a correspondence as may be an 
advantage to the paper, not a load upon it. 

" As to the Prize Verses, a backwardness to deter- 
mine their degrees of merit is not peculiar to me. 
You may, if you please, still have what I can say ; hut 
T shall engage with little spirit in an affair, which I 
shall hardly end to my own satisfaction, and certainly 
not to the satisfaction of the parties concerned. 8 

" As to Father Paul, I have not yet l>e< n just to my 
proposal, but have met with impediments, which, I 

6 They afterwards appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine with this title— 
15 Verses to Lady Firebrace, at Bury Assizes." 

' Du Halde's Description of China was then publishing by Mr. Cave in weekly 
numbers, whence Johnson was to select pieces for the embellishment of the Mag- 
azine. N, 

'<■ The premium of forty pounds proposed for ihc best poem on the Divine At- 
tributes is here alluded to. N. 

112 THE LIFE Ul« 

1738. hope, are now at an end ; and if you find the progress 
^E^ hereafter not such as you have a right to expect, you 
29. can easily stimulate a negligent translator. 

" If any or all of these have contributed to your 
discontent, I will endeavour to remove it ; and desire 
you to propose the question to which you wish for an 
answer. " I am, Sir, 

" Your humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

" to MR. CAVE. 

" sir, [No Date.'] 

" I am pretty much of your opinion, that the 
Commentary cannot be prosecuted with any appear- 
ance of success ; for as the names of the authours con- 
cerned are of more weight in the performance than its 
own intrinsick merit, the publick will be soon satisfied 
with it. And I think the Examen should be pushed 
forward with the utmost expedition. Thus, ' This day, 
&c. An Examen of Mr. Pope's Essay, &c. containing 
a succinct Account of the Philosophy of Mr. Leibnitz 
on the System of the Fatalists, with a Confutation of 
their Opinions, and an Illustration of the Doctrine of 
Free-Will ; y [with what else you think proper.] 

" It will, above all, be necessary to take notice, that 
it is a thing distinct from the Commentary. 

" I was so far from imagining they stood still, 9 that 
I conceived them to have a good deal before-hand, and 
therefore was less anxious in providing them more. 
But if ever they stand still on my account, it must 
doubtless be charged to me ; and whatever else shall 
be reasonable, i shall not oppose ; but beg a suspense 
of judgement till morning, when I must entreat you to 
send me a dozen proposals, and you shall then have 
copy to spare. " I am, Sir, 

" Your's, impransus, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

" Pray mustsr up the Proposals if you can, or let 
the boy recall them from the booksellers." 

„ The Compositors in Mr. Cave's printing-office, who appear by this letter t» 
have then waited for copy. N. 


But although lie corresponded with Mr. Cave con- i?38 
cerning a translation ofCrousaz's Examen of Pope's j!-^ 
Essay on Man, and gave advice as one anxious for its jg 
success, 1 was long- ago convinced by a perusal of the 
Preface, that this translation was erroneously ascribed 
to him ; and 1 have found this point ascertained, 
beyond all doubt, by the following article in Dr. Birch's 
Manuscripts in the British Museum : 

" Eliste Carters, S. P. D. Thomas Birch. 
" Versionem tuam Examinis Crousaziant jam perlegi. 
Summam sttjh et elegantiam, et in re difficillimd propri- 
etatem, admiratus. 

" Dabam Novemb. 27° 1738."' 

Indeed Mrs. Carter has lately acknowledged to Mr. 
Seward, that she was the translator of the " Examen." 

It is remarkable, that Johnson's last quoted letter to 
Mr. Cave concludes -with a fair confession that he had 
not a dinner ; and it is no less remarkable, that though 
in this state of want himself, his benevolent heart was 
not insensible to the necessities of an humble labourer 
in literature, as appears from the very next letter : 


;; dear sir, [No date ^] 

" You 7 may remember 1 have formerly talked with 

you about a Military Dictionary. The eldest Mr. 
Macbean, who was with Mr. Chambers, has very good 
materials for such a work, which \ have seen, and will 
do it at a very low rate.- 1 think the terms oi* Waj 
and Navigation might be comprised, with good expla- 
nations, in one Svo. Pica, which he is willing to do for 
twelve shillings a sheet, to be made up a guinea at the 
second impression. If you think on it, 1 will wait on 
you with him. " I am, Sir, 

" Your humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 
" Pray lend me Topsel on Animals." 

1 Birch MSS. Brit. Mus. 4353. 
~ This hook was published. 

VOL. T. 15 

114 1HE LIFE OF 

1738. J mus t no t omit to mention, that this Mr. Macbear* 

<Etat. was a nat i ve °1 Scotland. 

39. In the Gentleman's Magazine of this year, Johnson 
gave a Life of Father Paul ;* and he wrote the Pre- 
face to the V r olume,f which, though prefixed to it 
when bound, is always published with the Appendix, 
and is therefore the last composition belonging to it. 
The ability and nice adaptation with which he could 
draw up a prefatory address, was one of his peculiar 

It appears too, that he paid a friendly attention to 
Mrs. Elizabeth Carter ; for in a letter from Mr. Cave 
to Dr. Birch, November 28, this year, I find " Mr. 
Johnson advises Miss C. to undertake a translation of 
Boethius de Cons, because there is prose and verse, and 
to put her name to it when published." This advice 
was not followed ; probably from an apprehension that 
the work was not sufficiently popular for an extensive 
sale. How wellJohnson himself could have executed 
a translation of this philosophical poet, we may judge 
from the following specimen which he has given in the 
Rambler : (Motto to No. J.J 

" O qui pcrpetud mundum ratione gubernas^ 

" Terrarum ccelique sator ! 

" Disjice terrence nebulas et pondera mo/is, 

" Atque tuo splendore mica ! Tu namque serenum, 

" Tu requies tranquilla piis. Te cernere finis, 

" Principium, vector, dux, semita, terminus, idem." 

" O thou whose power o'er moving worlds presides. 
Whose voice created, and whose wisdom guides, 
On darkling man in pure effulgence shine, 
And cheer the clouded mind with light divine. 
'Tis thine alone to calm the pious breast, 
With silent confidence and holy rest ; 
From thee, great God ! we spring, to thee we tend. 
Path, motive, guide, original, and end !" 

In 1739, beside the assistance which he gave to the 
Parliamentary Debates, his writings in the Gentleman's 
Magazine were, " The Life of Boerhaave,"* in which 






DR. JOHNSON. 1 15 

it is to be observed, that lie discovers that love of chym- '739. 
istry which never forsook him ; tk An Appeal to theJJw" 
Publick in behalf of the Editor ;"| "All Address to 30. 
the Header \"-\ " An Epigram both in Greek and Latin 
to Kliza."* and also English verses to her ;* ami, " A 
Greek Epigram to Dr. Birch."* It has been erroneous- 
ly supposed, that an Essay published in that Magazine 
this year, entitled " The Apotheosis of Milton," was 
written by Johnson ; and on that supposition it has been 
improperly inserted in the edition of his works by tin- 
Booksellers, after his decease. Were there no positive 
testimony as to this point, the style of the performance, 
and the name of Shakspeare not being mentioned in 
an Essay professedly reviewing the principal English 
poets, would ascertain it not to be the production of 
Johnson. But there is here no occasion to resort to 
internal evidence ; for my Lord Bishop of Salisbury 
(Dr. Douglas) has assured me, that it was written by 
Guthrie. His separate publications were, " A Com- 
plete Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage, from 
the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke, 
Authour of Gustavus Vasa,'"* being an ironical Attack 
upon them for their Suppression of that Tragedy ; and, 
" Marmor Norfolciense ; or an Essay on an ancient 
prophetical Inscription, in monkish Rhyme, lately 
discovered near Lynne in Norfolk, by Probus Brit- 
annictjs."* In this performance, he, in a feigned 
inscription, supposed to have been found in Norfolk, 
the county of Sir Robert Walpole, then the obnoxious 
prime minister of this country, inveighs against the 
Brunswick succession, and the measures of govern- 
ment consequent upon it. 3 To this supposed prophe- 
cy he added a Commentary, making each expression 
apply to the times, with warm Anti-Hanoverian zeal. 

This anonymous pamphlet, I believe, did not make 
so much noise as was expected, and, therefore, had not 
a very extensive circulation. Sir John Hawkins relates, 
that " warrants were issued, and messengers employ* d 
to apprehend the authour ; who, though he had forborne 

,' The Inscription and the Translation of it are preserved in the London Maga- 
zine for the vear 17V.9, p. 241. 


1739. to subscribe his name to the pamphlet, the vigilance of 
#TtaT tnose m pursuit of him had discovered ;" and we are 
30. informed, that he lay concealed in Lambeth-marsh till 
the scent after him grew cold. Litis, however, is alto- 
gether without foundation ; for Mr. Steele, one of the 
Secretaries of the Treasury, who amidst a variety of 
important business, politely obliged me with his atten- 
tion to my enquiry, informed me, that " he directed 
every possible search to be made in the records of the 
Treasury and Secretary of State's Office, but could find 
no trace whatever of any warrant having been issued 
to apprehend the authour of this pamphlet." 

" Marmor Norfolciense" became exceedingly scarce, 
so that I, for many years endeavoured in vain to pro- 
cure a copy of it. At last 1 was indebted to the malice 
of one of Johnson's numerous petty adversaries, who, 
in 177«5, published a new edition of it, " with Notes 
and a Dedication to Samuel Johnson, LL. D. by 
Tribunus ;" in which some puny scribbler invidious- 
ly attempted to found upon it a charge of inconsistency 
against its authour, because he had accepted of a pen- 
sion from his present Majesty, and had written in sup- 
port of the measures of government. As a mortifica- 
tion to such impotent malice, of which there are so ma- 
ny instances towards men of eminence, 1 am happy to 
relate, that this tclum imbelle did not reach its exalted 
object, till about a year after it thus appeared, when I 
mentioned it to him, supposing that he knew of the re- 
publication. To my surprise, he had not yet heard of 
it. He requested me to go directly and get it for him, 
which I did. He looked at it and laughed, and seem- 
ed to be much diverted with the feeble efforts of his un- 
known adversary, Avho, 1 hope, is alive to read this ac- 
count. "Now (said he) here is somebody who thinks 
he has vexed me sadly ; yet, if it had not been for you, 
you rogue, I should probably never have seen it." 

As Mr. Pope's note concerning Johnson, alluded to 
in a former page, refers both to his " London," and his 
" Marmor Norfolciense," I have deferred inserting it till 
now. I am indebted for it to Dr. Percy, the Bishop of 
Dromore, who permitted me to copy it from the origi- 


nal in his possession. It was presented to his Lordship , / 3 - ( ). 
by Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom it wasgiven by the jg^ 
son of Mr. Richardson the painter, the person to whom jo. 
it is addressed. I have transcribed it with minute ex- 
actness, that the peculiar mode of writing, and imper- 
fect spelling of that celebrated poet, may be exhibited to 
the curious in literature. It justifies Swift's epithet of 
'* paper-sparing Pope," for it is written on a slip no 
larger than a common message-card, and was sent to 
Mr. Richardson, along with the imitation of Juvenal. 

" This is imitated by one Johnson who put in for a 
" Publick-school in Shropshire, 4 but was disappointed. 
" He has an infirmity of the convulsive kind, that at- 
" tacks him sometimes, so as to make Him a sad Spec- 
" tacle. Mr. P. from the Merit of This Work which 
" was all the knowledge he had of llim endeavour'd to 
"serve Him without his own application; & wrote to 
" my Ld. gore, but he did not succeed. Mr. Johnson 
"published afterwds. another Poem in Latin with 
" Notes the whole very llumerous callVl the Norfolk 
;: Prophecy. 

c f p » 

Johnson had been told of this note ; and Sir Joshua 
Reynolds informed him of the compliment which it 
contained, but, from delicacy, avoided shewing him the 
paper itself. When Sir Joshua observed to Johnson 
that he seemed very desirous to see Pope's note, he an- 
swered, " Who would not be proud to have such a 
man as Pope so solicitous in enquiring about him f" 

The infirmity to which Mr. Pope alludes, appeared 
to me also, as I have elsewhere 5 observed, to be of the 
convulsive kind, and of the nature of that distemper 
called St. Yitus's dance ; and in this opinion L am con- 
firmed by the description which Sydenham gives of that 
disease. "This disorder is a kind of convulsion. It 
manifests itself by halting or unsteadiness of one of the 
legs, which the patient draws alter him like an ideot. 
If the hand of the same side be applied to the breast, 

' Sec note, p. 107. 
Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 8. 


1739. or any other part of the body, he cannot keep it a mo- 
iEtaT ment m tne same posture, but it will be drawn into a 
30. different one by a convulsion, notwithstanding all his 
efforts to the contrary." Sir Joshua Reynolds, howev- 
er, was of a different opinion, and favoured me with the 
following paper. 

" Those motions or tricks of Dr. Johnson are improp- 
erly called convulsions. He could sit motionless, when 
he was told so to do, as well as any other man. My 
opinion is, that it proceeded from a habit 6 which he 
had indulged himself in, of accompanying his thoughts 
with certain untoward actions, and those actions always 
appeared to me as if they were meant to reprobate some 
part of his past conduct. Whenever he was not en- 
gaged in conversation, such thoughts were sure to rush 
into his mind ; and, for this reason, any company, any 
employment whatever, he preferred to being alone. The 
great business of his life (he said) was to escape from 
himself ; this disposition he considered as the disease 
of his mind, which nothing cured but company. 

" One instance of his absence and particularity, as it 
is characteristick of the man, may be worth relating. 
When he and 1 took a journey together into the West, 
we visited the late Mr. Banks, of Dorsetshire ; the con- 
versation turning upon pictures, which Johnson could 
not well see, he retired to a corner of the room, stretch- 
ing out his right leg as far as he could reach before 
him, then bringing up his left leg, and, stretching his 
right still further on. The old gentleman observing 
him, went up to him, and in a very courteous manner as- 
sured him, though it was not a new house, the flooring 
was perfectly sate. The Doctor started from his reve- 
rie, like a person waked out of his sleep, but spoke not 
a word." 

While we are on this subject, my readers may not 
be displeased with another anecdote, communicated to 
me by the same friend, from the relation of Mr. Ho- 

6 [Sir Joshua Reynolds's notion on this subject is confirmed by what Johnson him- 
self said to a young lady, the niece of his friend Christopher .Smart. See a note by 
Mr. Boswell on some particulars communicated by Reynolds, in vol. iii. under 
March 30, 1783. M."| 

DR. JOHNSON. 1 19 

Johnson used to be a pretty frequent visitor at the 1739- 
house of Mr. Richardson, authour of Clarissa, and <>th- j? tat# 
cr novels of extensive reputation. Mr. Hogarth came 30. 
one day to see Richardson, soon alter the « xecution of 
Dr. Cameron, for having - taken anus I'm- the house of 
Stuart in 1745-6; and being a warm partisan of George 
the Second, he observed to Richardson, that certainly 
there must have been some very unfavourable circum- 
stances lately discovered in this particular ease, which 
had induced the King to approve of an execution for 
rebellion so long - after the time when it was committed, 
as this had the appearance of putting a man to death in 
cold blood, 7 and was very unlike his Majesty's usual 
clemency. While he was talking, he perceived a per- 
son standing at a window in the room, shaking his head, 
and rolling himself about in a strange ridiculous man- 
ner. He concluded that he was an ideot, whom his 
relations had put under the care of Mr. Richardson, as 
a very good man. To his great surprize, however, this 
figure stalked forwards to where he and Mr. Richard- 
son were sitting, and all at once took up the argument, 
and burst out into an invective against George the 
Second, as one, who, upon all occasions, was unrelent- 
ing and barbarous ; mentioning many instances, par- 
ticularly, that when an officer of high rank had been 
acquitted by a Court Martial, George the Second had 
with his own hand struck his name off the list. In 
short, he displayed such a power of eloquence, that 
Hogarth looked at him with astonishment, and actually 
imagined that this ideot had been at the moment in- 
spired. Neither Hogarth nor .Johnson were made 
known to each other at this interview. 

7 Impartial posterity may, perhaps, be as little inclined as Dr. Johnson was, to 
justify the uncommon rigour exercised m the case of Dr. Archibald Cameron. 
He was an amiable and truly honest man ; and his offence was owing to a gener- 
eus, though mistaken principle of duty. Being obliged, alter 1746, to give up hi.? 
profession as a physician, and to go into foreign parts, he was honoured with the 
rank of Colonel,both in the French and Spanish service. He was a son of the ancient 
and respectable family of Cameron, ofLochiel ; and his brother, who was the Chief 
of that brave clan, distinguished himself by moderation and humanity, while the 
Highland army marched victorious through Scotland. It is remarkable of this 
Chief, that though he had earnestly remonstrated against the attempt as hopeli 
he was of too heroick a spirit not to venture his life and fortune r» tke cai : 
when personally asked by him whom he thought his Prin 

120 THE LIFE Ofc 

1740. In 1740 he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine the 
^J^ " Preface,"! " the Life of Admiral Blake/'* and the 
3j. first parts of those of " Sir Francis Drake,"* and 
" Philip Barretier,"* 8 both which he finished the fol- 
lowing year. He also wrote an " Essay on Epitaphs,"* 
and an " Epitaph on Phillips, a Musician,"* which was 
afterwards published with some other pieces of his, in 
Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies. This Epitaph is so ex- 
quisitely beautiful, that 1 remember even Lord Karnes, 
strangely prejudiced as he was against Dr. Johnson, 
was compelled to allow it very high praise. It has 
been ascribed to Mr. Garrick, from its appearing at first 
with the signature G ; but I have heard Mr. Garrick 
declare, that it was written by Dr. Johnson, and give 
the following account of the manner in which it was 
composed. Johnson and he were sitting together; 
when, amongst other things, Garrick repeated an Epi- 
taph upon this Phillips by a Dr. Wilkes, in these words : 

" Exalted soul ! whose harmony could please 
" The love-sick virgin, and the gouty ease ; 
ts Could jarring discord, like Amphion, move 
" To beauteous order and harmonious love ; 
" Rest here in peace, till angels bid thee rise, 
; ' And meet thy blessed Saviour in the skies." 

Johnson shook his head at these common-place fu- 
nereal lines, and said to Garrick, " I think, Davy, I can 
make a better." Then stirring about his tea for a little 
while, in a state of meditation, he almost extempore 
produced the following verses ; 

" Phillips, whose touch harmonious could remove 
" The pangs of guilty power or hapless love ; 
" Rest here, distress'd by poverty no more, 
" Here find that calm thou gav'st so oft before ; 
" Sleep, undisturb'd, within this peaceful shrine, 
" Till angels wake thee with a note like thine !" 9 

6 [To which in 1 742 he made very large additions, which have never yet been 
incorporated in any edition of Barretier 's Life. A. C] 

9 [The epitaph of Phillips is in the porch of Wolverhampton church. The 
prose part of it is curious : 


At the same time that Mr. ( rarrick favoured me with 17*0. 
this anecdote, he repeated a very pointed Epigram by ], t; ^ 
Johnson, on George the Second and Colley Cibber, 31. 
which has never yet appeared, and of which 1 know 
not the exact date. Dr. Johnson afterwards gave it to 
me himself: 

" Augustus still survives in Mare's strain, 
" And Spenser's verse prolongs Eliza's rei^n ; 
" Great George's acts let tuneful (Jibber sing; 
" For Nature form'd the Poet for the King." 

In 1741 he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine 
" the Preface,"f " Conclusion of his lives of Drake and 
Barretier,"* " A free translation of the Jests of lliero- 
cles, with an Introduction ;"f and, 1 think, the follow- 
ing pieces : " Debate on the Proposal of parliament to 
Cromwell, to assume the Title of King, abridged, 
modified, and digested ;"f " Translation of Abbe Guv- 
on's Dissertation on the Amazons ;"f " Translation of 
Fontenelle's Panegyrick on Dr. Morin."f Two notes 
upon this appear to me undoubtedly his. He this 
year, and the two following, wrote the Parliamentary 

" Near this place lies 

Charles Claudius Phillips, 

Whose absolute contempt of riches 

and inimitable performances upon the violin, 

made him the admiration of all that knew him. 

He was born in Wales, 

made the tour of Europe, 

and, after the experience of both kinds of fortune, 

Died in 1732." 

Mr. Garrick appears not to have recited the verses correctly, the original being as 
follows. One of the various readings is remarkable, as it is the germ of Johnson'.- 

Concluding line : 

" Exalted soul, thy -various sounds could please 
" The love-sick virgin, and the gouty ease ; 
" Could jarring croivds, like old Amphion, move 
" To beauteous order and harmonious love ; 
" Rest here in peace, till Angels bid thee rise, 
" And meet thy Saviour's consort in the skies." 

Dr. Wilkes, the authour of these lines, was a Fellow of Trinity College, in Oxford-, 
and rector of Pitchford, in Shropshire : he collected materials for a history ol 
that county, and is spoken of by Brown Willis, in his History of Mitred Abbies. 
vol. ii. p. 189. But he was a native of Staffordshire ; and to the antiquities of 
that county was his attention chiefly confined. Mr. Shaw has had the tise nf hi« 
papers. J. B.] 

VOL. T In" 

122 TH£ LIFE OF 

1741. Debates. He toid me himself, that he was the sole 
jEtdT composer of them for those three years only. He was 
32. not, however, precisely exact in his statement, which 
he mentioned from hasty recollection ; for it is suffi- 
ciently evident, that his composition of them began 
November 19, 1740, and ended February 23, 1742-3. 

It appears from some of Cave's letters to Dr. Birch, 
that Cave had better assistance for that branch of his 
Magazine, than has been generally supposed ; and that 
he was indefatigable in getting it made as perfect as he 

Thus, 21st July, 173-5. " I trouble you with the in- 
closed, because you said you could easily correct what 

is here given for Lord C Id's speech. I beg you 

will do so as soon as 3^011 can for me, because the month 
is far advanced." 

And 15th July, 1737- " As vou remember the de- 
bates so far as to perceive the speeches already printed 
are not exact, I beg the favour that you will peruse the 
inclosed, and, in the best manner your memory will 
serve, correct the mistaken passages, or add any thing 
that is omitted. I should be very glad to have some- 
thing of the Duke of N le's speech, which would 

be particularly of service. 

" A gentleman has Lord Bathurst's speech to add 
something to." 

And July 3, 1744, " You will see what stupid, low, 
abominable stuff is put 1 upon your noble and learned 
friend's 1 character, such as 1 should quite reject, and en- 
deavour to do something better towards doing justice to 
the character. But as I cannot expect to attain my desire 
in that respect, it would be a great satisfaction, as well 
as an honour to our work, to have the favour of the 
genuine speech. It is a method that several have been 
pleased to take, as I could show, but I think myself 
under a restraint. 1 shall say so far, that 1 have had 
some by a third hand, which I understood well enough 
to come from the first ; others by penny-post, and 
■ rliers by the speakers themselves, who have, been 

1 I suppose in another compilation of the same kind 
Doubtless, Lord Hardwick. 


pleased to visit St. John's (iate, and --how particulai i"->. 
marks of their being pleased." 3 ^ ^ 

There is no reason, I believe, to doubt the veracity jj. 
oftUave. It is, however, remarkable, that none of 
these letters are in the years during which Johnson 
alone furnished the Debates, and one of them is in the 
very year alter he ceased from that labour. Johnson 
told me, that as soon as he found that the speeches 
were thought genuine, he determined that he would 
write no more of them : " for he would not be accessary 
to the propagation of falsehood." And such was tin 
tenderness of his conscience, that a short time before 
his death he expressed his regret for his having been 
the authour of fictions, which had passed for realities. 

He nevertheless agreed with me in thinking, that the 
debates which he had framed were to be valued as 
orations upon questions of publick importance. Th< 
have accordingly been collected in volumes, properly 
arranged, and recommended to the notice of parlia- 
mentary speakers by a preface, written by no inferior 
hand. 4 I must, however, observe, that although then 
is in those debates a wonderful store of political in- 
formation, and very powerful eloquence, I cannot agre< 
that they exhibit the manner of each particular speaker, 
as Sir John Hawkins seems to think. But, indeed. 
what opinion can we have of his judgement, and tast< 
in publick speaking, who presumes to give, as the char- 
acteristicks of two celebrated orators, " the deep 
mouthed rancour of Pulteney, and the yelping perti- 
nacity of Pitt." 5 

This year 1 find that his tragedy of Irene had been 
for some time ready for the stage, and that his neces- 
sities made him desirous of getting as much as he could 
for it, without delay ; for there is the following letter 
from Mr. Cave to Dr. Birch, in the same volume of 
manuscripts in the British Museum, from which I 
copied those above quoted. They were most obligingly 

3 Birch's MSS. in the British Museum, 1302. 
4 lam assured that the editor is Mr. George Chalmers, whose commc 
ivorks are well known and esteemed. 

4 Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 100. 


1742. pointed out to me by Sir William Musgrave, one of the 
2t^ ^ urators °f tnat noble repository. 

33 - " Sept. 9, 1741. 

" I have put Mr. Johnson's play into Mr. Gray's 6 
hands, in order to sell it to him, if he is inclined to buy 
it ; but I doubt whether he will or not. He would 
dispose of the copy, and whatever advantage may be 
made by acting it. Would your society, 7 or any gen- 
tleman, or body of men that you know, take such a 
bargain \ He and I are very unfit to deal with theat- 
rical persons. Fleetwood was to have acted it last sea- 
son, but Johnson's diffidence or prevented it." 
I have already mentioned that " Irene," was not 
brought into publick notice till Garrick was manager 
of Drury-lane theatre. 

In 1742 9 he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine 
the " Preface,"-]* the " Parliamentary Debates "* " Es- 
say on the Account of the Conduct of the Duchess of 
Marlborough,"* then the popular topick of conversa- 
tion. This Essay is a short but masterly performance. 
We find him in No. 13 of his Rambler, censuring a 
profligate sentiment in that " Account ;" and again in- 
sisting upon it strenuously in conversation. 1 " An 
Account of the Life of Peter Burman,"* I believe 
chiefly taken from a foreign publication ; as, indeed, 
he could not himself know much about Burman ; 
" Additions to his Life of Barretier ;"* " The Life of 
Sydenham,"* afterwards prefixed to Dr. Swan's edition 
of his works ; " Proposals for printing Bibliotheca Har~ 
leiana, or a Catalogue of the Library of the Earl of Ox~ 

6 A bookseller of London, 

" Not the Royal Society ; but the Society for the encouragement of Learning, 
of which Dr. Birch was a leading member. Their object was, to assist authours in 
printing expensive works. It existed from about 1735 to 1746, when, having in- 
curred a considerable debt, it was dissolved. 

e There is no erasure here, but a mere blank ; to fill up which may be an ex- 
ercise for ingenious conjecture. 

9 [From one of his letters to a friend, written in June 1742, it should seem that 
he then purposed to write a play on the subject of Charles theTwelfth, of Sweden, 
and to have it ready for the ensuing winter. The passage alluded to, however, 
is somewhat ambiguous ; and the work which he then had in contemplation may 
have been a history of that monarch. M.] 

1 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d. edit. p. 167. 

nit. JOHNSON. 12o 

ford/'* His account of that celebrated collection of 1742. 
books, in which lie displays the importance to litera- y A ~^ 
ture, of what the French call a catalogue raisonne, when 33. 
the subjects of it are extensive and various, and it is 
executed with ability, cannot fail to impress all his 
readers with admiration of his philological attainment 
It was afterwards prefixed to the first volume of the 
Catalogue, in which the Latin accounts of books were 
written by him. He was employed in this business b 
Mr. Thomas Osborne the bookseller, who purchased 
the library for £ 13,000, a sum which Mr. Oldys says, in 
one of his manuscripts, was not more than the binding 
of the books had cost ; yet, as Dr. Johnson assured me, 
the slowness of the sale was such, that there was not 
much gained by it. It has been confidently related, 
with many embellishments, that Johnson one day 
knocked Osborne down in his shop, with a folio, and 
put his foot upon his neck. The simple truth I had 
from Johnson himself. " Sir, he was impertinent to 
me, and I beat him. But it was not in his shop: it 
was in my own chamber." 

A very diligent observer may trace him where we 
should not easily suppose him to be found. I have no 
doubt that he wrote the little abridgement entitled 
" Foreign History," in the Magazine for December. 
To prove it, I shall quote the Introduction. " As this 
is that season of the year in which Nature may be said 
to command a suspension of hostilities, and which 
seems intended, by putting a short stop to violence 
and slaughter, to afford time for malice to relent, and 
animosity to subside ; we can scarce expect any other 
account than of plans, negociations and treaties, of pro- 
posals for peace, and preparations for war." As also 
this passage : "Let those who despise the capacity of 
the Swiss, tell us by what wonderful policy, or by what 
happy conciliation of interests, it is brought to pass, 
that in a body made up of different communities and 
different religions, there should be no civil commo- 
tions, though the people are so warlike, that to nomi- 
nate and raise an army is the same." 


J742. I am obliged to Mr. Astle for his ready permission 

^^ to copy the two following letters, of which the origin- 

33,'als are in his possession. Their contents shew that 

they were written about this time, and that Johnson 

was now engaged in preparing an historical account of 

the British Parliament. 


" sir, [No dafe.'] 

" I believe I am going to write a long letter, 
and have therefore taken a whole sheet of paper. The 
first thing to be written about is our historical design. 

" You mentioned the proposal of printing in num- 
bers, as an alteration in the scheme, but I believe you 
mistook, some way or other, my meaning ; 1 had no 
other view than that you might rather print too many 
of five sheets, than of five and thirty. 

" With regard to what I shall say on the manner of 
proceeding, I would have it understood as wholly indif- 
ferent to me, and my opinion only, not my resolution. 
Emptoris sit eligere. 

"1 think the insertion of the exact dates of the most 
important events in the margin, or of so many events as 
may enable the reader to regulate the order of facts 
with sufficient exactness, the proper medium between a 
journal, which has regard only to time, and a history 
which ranges facts according to their dependence on 
each other, and postpones or anticipates according to 
the convenience of narration. 1 think the work ought 
to partake of the spirit of history, which is contrary to 
minute exactness, and of the regularity of a journal, 
which is inconsistent with spirit. For this reason, 1 
neither admit numbers or dates, nor reject them. 

" I am of your opinion with regard to placing most of 
the resolutions, &c. in the margin, and think we shall 
give the most complete account of Parliamentary pro- 
ceedings that can be contrived. The naked papers, 
without an historical treatise interwoven, require some 
other book to make them understood. I will date the 
succeeding facts with some exactness, but 1 think in 


the margin. You told me on Saturday that 1 had re- 174& 
ceived money on this work, and found set down J_ 13 y^ 
2s. 6d. reckoning the half guinea of last Saturday. As ., ; . 
you hinted to me that you had many calls for money, 1 
would not press you too hard, and then fore shall desire 
only, as I send it in, two guineas for a sheet of copy ; 
the rest you may pay me when it may be more conv< n- 
ient ; and even by this sheet-payment I shall, for some 
time, be very expensive. 

"The Life of Savage I am ready to go upon ; and in 
Great Primer, and Pica notes, 1 reckon on sending in 
half a sheet a dav ; but the money for that shall like- 
wise lye by in your hands till it is done. With the 
debates, shall not 1 have business enough I if 1 had 
but good pens. 

" Towards Mr. Savage's Life what more have you 
got I 1 would willingly have his trial, &c. and know 
whether his defence be at Bristol, and would have his 
collection of poems, on account of the Preface ; — 
" The Plain Dealer," 1 — all the magazines that have any 
thing of his or relating to him. 

" 1 thought my letter would be long, but it is now- 
ended ; and 1 am, Sir, 

" Your's, &c. 

' ; Sam. Johnson/' 

"The boy found me writing this almost in the dark, 
when I could not quite easily read yours. 

" I have read the Italian : — nothing in it is well. 

" I had no notion of having any thing for the Inscrip- 
tion.* I hope you don't think 1 kept it to extort a 
price. I could think of nothing, till to day. If you 
could spare me another guinea for the history, L should 
take it very kindly, to-night; but if you do not, 1 shall 
not think it an injury. i am almost well again." 

2 " The Plain Dealer" was published in 1724, and contained some account ot 

' TPerhaps the Ruuick Inscription. C ! ' f. vol, xii. p. IS2. M.} 

128 THE LIFE 0L 


34. SIR > 

" You did not tell me your determination about 
the Soldier's Letter S which 1 am confident was never 
printed. I think it will not do by itself, or in any oth- 
er place, so well as the Mag. Extraordinary. If you 
will have it all, I believe you do not think I set it 
high, and I will be glad if what you give, you will give 

" You need not be in care about something to print, 
for I have got the State Trials, and shall extract Layer, 
Atterbury, and Macclesfield from them, and shall bring 
them to you in a fortnight ; after which 1 will try to 
get the South Sea Report." 

[No date, nor signature^ 

I would also ascribe to him an " Essay on the De- 
scription of China, from the French of Du Halde."f 

His writings in the Gentleman^s Magazine in 1743, 
are, the Preface, -j- the Parliamentary Debates, j- "Con- 
siderations on the Dispute between Crousaz and War- 
burton, on Pope's Essay on Man ;"f in which, while 
he defends Crousaz, he shews an admirable metaphys- 
ical acuteness and temperance in controversy ; Ad 
Lauram parituram Epigramma* ;"* and, " A Latin 
Translation of Pope's Verses on his Grotto ;"* and, as 

' I have not discovered what this was. 

4 Angliacas inter pulcberrima Laura pucllas, 

Mox uteri pnndus depesitura grave, 
Adsit, Laura, tibifacilis Lucina dolenti, 
JYcve tibi noceat pranituisse Dea. 
Mr. Hector was present when this Epigram was made impromptu. The first line 
was proposed by Dr. James, and Johnson was called upon by the company to fin- 
ish it, which he instantly did. 

[The following elegant Latin Ode, which appeared in the Gentleman's Maga- 
zine for 1743. (vol. xiii. p. 548,; was many years ago pointed out to James Bind- 
ley, Esq. as written by Johnson, and may safely be attributed to him. 
Van ;f. sit arti, sit studio modus, 

Formosa virgo : sit speculo quies, 
Curamque quserendi decoris 

Mitte, supervacuosque cultus. 
Ut fortuitis verna coloribus 
Depicta vulgo rura magis placent, 
Nee invident horto nitenti 
Oivitias operosiores : 


he could employ his pen with equal success upon a 17*3. 
small matter as a great, L suppose him to he the an- J^ 
thour of an advertisement for Osborne, concerning the 34, 
great Haxleian Catalogue. 

But I should think myself much wanting, both to 
my illustrious friend and my readers, did 1 not intro- 
duce here, with more than ordinary respect, an exquis- 
itely beautiful Ode, which has not been inserted in 
any of the collections of Johnson's poetry, written by 
him at a very early period, as Air. Hector informs me, 
and inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine of this year. 

Friendship, an Ode.* 

Friendship, peculiar boon of heav'n, 

The noble mind's delight and pride. 
To men and angels only giv'n, 

To all the lower world deny'd. 

Lenique fons cum murmure pulchrior 
Obliquat ultro praecipitem fugam 
Inter reluctantes lapillos, et 
Ducit aquas temere sequentes: 

Utque inter undas, inter et arbores, 
Jam vere primo dulce strepunt aves, 
Et arte nulla gratiores 

Ingeminant sine lege cantus : 

Nativa sic te gratia, te niror 
Simplex decebit, te veneres tuae ; 
Nudus Cupido suspicatur 
Artifices nimis apparatus. 

Ergo fluentem tu, male sedula, 
Ne savva inuras semper acu comam 
Nee sparsa odorato nitentes 
Pulvere dedecores capillos ; 

Quales nee olim vel Ptolemreia 
Jactabat uxor, sidereo in choro 
Utcunque devotae refulgent 
Verticis exuviae decori ; 

Nee diva mater, cum similem ture 
Mentita formara, et pulchrior aspici, 
Permisit incomtas protervis 
Fusa comas agitare vends. 

in vol. xiv. p. 46, of the same work, an elegant Epigram was inserted, in amw«r K 
the foregoing Ode, which was written by Dr. Inyon of Norfolk, a physicj in, and 
an excellent classical scholar : 

AdAuthorem Carm'tnh ad OrNATISSIMAM Pi-ei r > U 
O cui non potuit, quia culta, placere puella, 
Qui speras Musam posse placi mam v 

VOL. I. 17 


1743. While love unknown among the blest, 
flfc^ s Parent of thousand wild desires, 

34. The savage and the human breast 

Torments alike with raging fires ; 

With bright, but oft destructive, gleam, 

Alike o'er all his lightnings fly ; 
Thy lambent glories only beam 

Around the fav'rites of the sky. 

Thy gentle flows of guiltless joys 
On fools and villains ne'er descend : 

fu vain for thee the tyrant sighs, 
And hugs a flatterer for a friend. 

Directress of the brave and just, 

O guide us through life's darksome way ! 

And let the tortures of mistrust 
On selfish bosoms only prey. 

Nor shall thine ardour cease to glow, 
When souls to blissful climes remove ; 

What rais'd our virtue here below, 
Shall aid our happiness above. 

Johnson had now an opportunity of obliging his 
schoolfellow Dr. James, of whom he once observed, 
" no man brings more mind to his profession." James 
published this year his " Medicinal Dictionary," in 
three volumes folio. Johnson, as I understood from 
him, had written, or assisted in writing, the proposals 
for this work ; and being very fond of the study of 
physick, in which James was his master, he furnished 
some of the articles. He, however, certainly wrote for 
it the Dedication to Dr. Mead,| which is conceived 
with great address, to conciliate the patronage of that 
very eminent man. 5 

5 " TO DR. MEAB. 
" SIR, 

" That the Medicinal Dictionary is dedicated to you, is to be imputed only to 
your reputation for superiour skill in those iciences which I have endeavoured to 
explain and facilitate : and you are, therefore, to consider this address, if it be 
agreeable to you, as one of the rewards of merit ; and if, otherwise, as one of the 
inconveniencies of eminence, 


It has been circulated, I know not with what authen- 1743. 
ticity, that Johnson considered J)r. Birch as a dull £; tat( 
writer, and said of him, "Tom Birch is as brisk as a 34, 

bee in conversation ; but no sooner docs he take a 
pen in his hand, than it becomes a torpedo to him, and 
benumbs all his faculties." That the literature of this 
country is much indebted to Birch's activity and dili- 
gence must certainly be acknowledged. We have 
seen that Johnson honoured him with a Greek Epi- 
gram ; and his correspondence with him, during many 
years, proves that he had no mean opinion of him. 


" sir, " Thursday, Sept. 29, 1743. 

" I hope you will excuse me for troubling you on 
an occasion on which 1 know not whom else 1 can ap- 
ply to ; I am at a loss for the Lives and Characters of 
Earl Stanhope, the two Craggs, and the minister Sun- 
derland ; and beg that you will inform [me] where I 
may find them, and send any pamphlets, &c. relating 
to them to Mr. Cave to be perused for a few days by, 

" Your most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

His circumstances were at this time embarrassed : 
yet his affection for his mother was so warm, and so 
liberal, that he took upon himself a debt of hers, which, 
though small in itself, was then considerable to him. 
This appears from the following letter which he wrote 
to Mr. Levett, of Lichfield, the original of which li 
now before me. 


"sir, "December 1, 17*3' 

"I am extremelv sorry that we have encroached 

so much upon your forbearance with respect to the id- 

" However you shall receive it, my design cannot be disappointed ; because 
this publick appeal to your judgement will shew that I do not found my hopes of 
approbation upon the ignorance of my readers, and that I fear his censure least, 
whose knowledge i- most extensive. I am, Sir, 

" Your most obedient humble servant, 

" R. James:" 


1744. terest, which a great perplexity of affairs hindered me 
Star fr° m thinking f with that attention that I ought, and 
35, ' which I am not immediately able to remit to you, but 
will pay it (1 think twelve pounds,) in two months. I 
look upon this, and on the future interest of that mort- 
gage, as my own debt ; and beg that you will be pleas- 
ed to give me directions how to pay it, and not men- 
tion it to my dear mother. If it be necessary to pay 
this in less time, I believe I can do it ; but I take two 
months for certainty, and beg an answer whether you 
can allow me so much time. I think myself very much 
obliged to your forbearance, and shall esteem it a great 
happiness to be able to serve you. I have great oppor- 
tunities of dispersing any thing that you may think it 
proper to make publick. I will give a note for the mon- 
ey, payable at the time mentioned, to any one here 
that you shall appoint. I am, Sir, 

" Your most obedient 

"And most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 
; ' At Mr. Osborne's, bookseller, in Graifs Inn. 

It does not appear that he wrote any thing in 17 1 
for the Gentleman's Magazine, but the Preface. -\ His 
life of Barretier was now re-published in a pamphlet by 
itself. But he produced one work this year, fully suf- 
ficient to maintain the high reputation which he had 
acquired. This was "The Life of Richard Sav- 
age ;"* a man, of whom it is difficult to speak impar- 
tially, without wondering that he was for some time 
the intimate companion of Johnson ; for his character 6 

6 As a specimen of his temper, I insert the following letter from him f o a nob!? 
Lord, to whom he was under great obligations, but who, on account of Ms bad 
conduct, was obliged to discard him. The original was in the hands of the late 
Francis Cockayne Cust, Esq. one of his Majesty's Counsel learned in the law : 

" Right Honourable Brute, and ' BooBY, 

" I find you want (as Mr. is pleased to hint,; to swear away my life 

that is, the life of your creditor, because he asks you for a debt. — The publick shall 
soon be acquainted with this, to judge whether you are not fitter to be an Irish 
Fvidence, than to be an Irish Peer. — I defy and despise you. 

" 1 am, 

" Your determined adversaiy, 

« r. s: 



was marked by profligacy, insolence, and ingratitude: 1744. 
yet, as he undoubtedly had a warm and vigorous, J 

though unregulated mind, had seen li{<> in all its • 
ties, and been much in the company of the Stat< sun n 
and wits of his time, he could communicate to John- 
son an abundant supply of such materials as his philo- 
sophical curiosity most eagerly desired ; and as Sava 
misfortunes and misconduct had reduced him to the 
lowest state of wretchedness as a writer for bread, his 
visits to St. John's Gate naturally brought Johnson and 
him together. 7 

It is me]ancholv to reflect, that Johnson and Saw i 
were sometimes m such extreme indigence, 8 that thev 
could not pay for a lodging ; so that they have wander- 
ed together whole nights in the streets. 9 Yet in these 

- Sir John Hawkins gives the world to understand, that Johnson, " being an ad- 
oiirer of genteel manners, was captivated by the address and demeanour of S.r - 
age, who, as to his exterior, was to a remarkable degree accomplished." — Haw- 
kins's Life, p. 52. But Sir John's notions of gentility must appear somewhat lu- 
dicrous, from his stating the following circumstance as presumptive evidence that 
Savage was a good swordsman : " That he understood the exercise of a gentle- 
man's weapon, may be inferred from the use made of it in that rash encountc r 
which is related in his life." The dexterity here alluded to was, that Savage, in 
a nocturnal fit of drunkenness, stabbed a man at a coffee-house, and killed him 
for which he was tried at the Old-Bailey, and found guilty of murder. 

Johnson, indeed, describes him as having " a grave and manly deportment, a sol- 
emn dignity of mien ; but which, upon a nearer acquaintance, softened into an 
■ ■ngaging easiness of manners." How highly Johnson admired him lor that knowl- 
edge which he himself so much cultivated, and what kindness he entertained for 
iiim, appears from the following lines in the Gentleman's Magazine for April, 
1 738, which 1 am assured were written by Johnson : 

" y&/ Ricardum Savage. 

" Humani studium generis cut pectore jfttrv 
" colat bumanum te foveatquc genus." 

8 [The following striking proof of Johnson's extreme indigence, when he | 
i^hed the Life of Savage, was communicated to Mr. Boswell, by Mr. Richard 
Stowe, of Apsley, in Bedfordshire, from the information of Mr. Walter Harte, au 
;hor of the Life of Gustavus Adolphus : 

" Soon after Savage's Life was published, Mr. Harte dined with Edward Civr. 
and occasionly praised it. Soon after, meeting him, Cave said, ' You made a man 
verv happy t'other day.' — 'How could that be,' says Harte ; ' nobody w.i 
but ourselves.' Cave answered, by reminding him that a plate of victual-- v. 
behind a screen, which was to Johnson, dressed so shabbily, that he did not choo ! 
to appear ; but on hearing the conversation, he was highly delighted with the 
encomiums on his book" M.] 

[As Johnson was married before he settled in London, and must have? ;•.'- 
ways had a habitation for his wife, some readers have wondered, howl), 
could have been driven to -.troll about with Savage, all (tight, for want < 
mg. But itshouldbe remembered, that Johnson, at different periods, had 
ings in the vicinity of London ; and his finances certainly would not adnv 
vf a double establishment. When; therefore, he spent a convivial day in La 

134 KtiE LIFE OF 

1744. almost incredible scenes of distress, we may suppose- 
jEtaT tnat Savage mentioned many of the anecdotes with 
35. ' which Johnson afterwards enriched the life of his un- 
happy companion, and those of other Poets. 

He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that one night in par- 
ticular, when Savage and he walked round St. Jameses- 
Square for want of a lodging, they were not at all de- 
pressed by their situation ; but in high spirits and 
brimful of patriotism, traversed the square for several 
hours, inveighed against the minister, and " resolved 
they would stand bij their country" 

1 am afraid, however, that by associating with Savage, 
who was habituated to the dissipation and licentious- 
ness of the town, Johnson, though his good principles 
remained steady, did not entirely preserve that conduct, 
for which, in days of greater simplicity, he was re- 
marked by his friend Mr. Hector ; but was impercept- 
ibly led into some indulgencies which occasioned much 
distress to his virtuous mind. 

That Johnson was anxious that an authentick and 
favourable account of his extraordinary friend should 
first get possession of the publick attention, is evident 
from a letter which he wrote in the Gentleman's Mag- 
azine for August of the year preceding its publication. 


" As your collections show how often you hav< 
owed the ornaments of your poetical pages to the cor- 
respondence of the unfortunate and ingenious Mr. Sav- 
age, I doubt not but you have so much regard to his 
memory as to encourage any design that may have a 
tendency to the preservation of it from insults or cal- 
umnies ; and therefore, with some degree of assurance, 
intreat you to inform the publick, that his life will 
speedily be published by a person who was favoured 

and found it too late to return to any country residence he may occasionally have 
had. having no lodging in town, he was obliged to pass the night in the manner 
described above ; for, though at that period, it was not uncommon for two men 
to sleep together, Savage, it appears, could accommodate him with nothing but his 
company in the open air. — The Epigram given abeve, which doubtless was writ- 
en by Johnson, shews.that their acquaintance commenced before April, 1738. See 
p. 103, n. M.j 

Dll. JOHNSON. {,:._> 

with his confidence, and received From himself an ac- '744. 
count of most of the transactions which he proposes t<> JJ *? 
mention, to the time of his retirement to Swansea in 35 

" From that period, to his death in the prison of 
Bristol, the account will be continued from materials 
still less liable to objection; his own letters, and those 
of his friends, some of which will be inserted in the 
work, and abstracts of others subjoined in the margin. 

" It may be reasonably imagined, that others may 
have the same design; but as it is not credible that 
they can obtain the same materials, it must be expected 
they will supply from invention the want of intelli- 
gence ; and that under the title of ' The Life of Sav- 
age/ they will publish only a novel, filled with roman- 
tick adventures, and imaginary amours. You may 
therefore, perhaps, gratify the lovers of truth and wit, 
by giving me leave to inform them in your Magazine, 
that my account will be published in 8vo. by Mr. Rob- 
erts, in Warwick-lane." 

[No signature.'] 

In February, 1/44, it accordingly came forth from 
the shop of Roberts, between whom and Johnson I 
have not traced any connection, except the casual one 
of this publication. In Johnson's " Life of Savage," 
although it must be allowed that its moral is the re- 
verse of — " Respicere exemplar vitce morurhttue jubebo" 
a very useful lesson is inculcated, to guard men of 
warm passions from a too free indulgence of them ; and 
the various incidents are related in so clear and ani- 
mated a manner, and illuminated throughout with so 
much philosophy, that it is one of the most interesting 
narratives in the English language. Sir Joshua Rey- 
nolds told me, that upon his return from Italy he met 
with it in Devonshire, knowing nothing of its authour, 
and began to read it while he was standing with his 
arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It seized his 
attention so, that, not being able to lay down 
the book till he had finished it, when lie attempted to 
move, he found his arm totallv benumbed. The ra- 


!744. pidity with which this work was composed, is a won- 
2J^ derful circumstance. Johnson has been heard to say, 
35. " I wrote forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the 
Life of Savage at a sitting ; but then 1 sat up all night." z 
He exhibits the genius of Savage to the best ad- 
vantage, in the specimens of his poetry which he has 
selected, some of which are of uncommon merit. We, 
indeed, occasionally find such vigour and such point, 
as might make us suppose that the generous aid of 
Johnson had been imparted to his friend. Mr. Thomas 
War ton made this remark to me ; and, in support of 
it, quoted from the poem entitled " The Bastard," a 
line in which the fancied superiority of one "stamped 
in Nature's mint with extasy," is contrasted with a 
regular lawful descendant of some great and ancient 
family : 

" No tenth transmitter of a foolish face." 

But the fact is that this poem was published som ■ 
years before Johnson and Savage were acquainted. 

It is remarkable, that in this biographical disquisition 
there appears a very strong symptom of Johnson's prej- 
udice against players ; a prejudice which may be at- 
tributed to the following causes : first, the imperfection 
of his organs, which were so defective that he was not 
susceptible of the fine impressions which theatrical ex- 
cellence produces upon the generality of mankind ; 
secondly, the cold rejection of his tragedy ; and, lastly, 
the brilliant success of Garrick, who had been his pupil, 
who had come to London at the same time with him, 
not in a much more prosperous state than himself, and 
whose talents he undoubtedly rated low, compared 
with his own. His being outstripped by his pupil in 
the race of immediate fame, as well as of fortune, 
probably made him feel some indignation, as thinking 
that whatever might be Garrick's merits in his art, the 
reward was too great when compared with what the 
most successful efforts of literary labour could attain. 
At all periods of his life Johnson used to talk con- 

2 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 35. 

t)K. joiinson. lj; 

temptuously of players ; but in this work lie speaks of 1744. 
them with peculiar acrimony ; for which, perhaps, there "jT,.^ 
was formerly too much reason from the licentious and 35. 
dissolute manners of those engaged in thai profession, 
[t is but justice to add, that in our own time such a 
change has taken place, that there is no longer room 
for such an unfavourable distinction. 

His schoolfellow and friend, Dr. Taylor, told me a 
pleasant anecdote of Johnson's triumphing over his 
pupil, David Garrick. U hen that great actor had 
played some little time at Goodman's fields, Johnson 
and Taylor went to see him perform, and afterwards 
passed the evening at a tavern with him and old Gif- 
fard. Johnson, who was ever depreciating stage-play- 
ers, after censuring - some mistakes in emphasis, which 
Garrick had committed in the course of that night's 
acting, said, " the players, Sir, have got a kind of rant, 
with which they run on, without any regard either to 
accent or emphasis." Both Garrick and Giffard were 
offended at this sarcasm, and endeavoured to refute it: 
upon which Johnson rejoined, "Well now, I'll give 
you something to speak, with which you are little ac- 
quainted, and then we shall see how just my observa- 
tion is. That shall be the criterion. Letme hearyou 
repeat the ninth Commandment, ; - Thou shalt not 
bear false witness against thy neighbour." Both tried 
at it, said Dr. Taylor, and both mistook the emphasis, 
which should be upon not and false witness. 3 Johnson 
put them right, and enjoyed his victory with great 

His ' ; Life of Savage," was no sooner published, 
than the following liberal praise was given to it, in 
"The Champion," a periodical paper: '-This pam- 
phlet is, without flattery to itsauthour, as just and well 
written a piece as of its kind I ever saw ; so that at 
the same time that it highly deserves, it certainly 
stands very little in need of this recommendation. As 

3 1 suspect Dr. Taylor was Inaccurate in this statement. The empha.w should 
be equally upon sbalt and not, a. both concur to form the negative injunction ; 
and/z/^ -witness, like the other acts prohibited in the Decalogue, should not be 
marked by any peculiar emphasis, but only be distinctly enunciated, 

[A moderate emphasis should be placed on false. K.] 

VOL. I. 18 


l /44. t the history of the unfortunate person, whose me- 
"a^T moirs compose this work, it is certainly penned with 
35. equal accuracy and spirit, of which 1 am so much the 
better judge, as I know many of the facts mentioned 
to be strictly true, and very fairly related. Besides, it 
is not only the story of Mr. Savage, but innumerable 
incidents relating to other persons, and other affairs, 
which renders this a very amusing, and, withal, a very 
instructive and valuable performance. The authour's 
observations are short, significant, and just, as his nar- 
rative is remarkably smooth, and well disposed. His 
reflections open to all the recesses of the human 
heart ; and, in a word, a more just or pleasant, a more 
engaging or a more improving treatise, on all the ex- 
cellencies and defects of human nature, is scarce to 
be found in our own, or perhaps, any other language."* 
Johnson's partiality for Savage made him entertain 
no doubt of his story, however extraordinary and im- 
probable. It never occurred to him to question his be- 
ing the son of the Countess of Macclesfield, of whose 
unrelenting barbarity he so loudly complained, and the 
particulars of which are related in so strong and affect- 
ing a manner in Johnson's Life of him. Johnson was 
certainly well warranted in publishing his narrative, 
however offensive it might be to the lady and her re- 
lations, because her alledged unnatural and cruel con- 
duct to her son, and shameful avowal of guilt, were 
stated in a Life of Savage now lying before me, which 
came out so early as 1727, and no attempt had been 
made to confute it, or to punish the authour or printer 
as a libeller : but for the honour of human nature, we 
should be glad to find the shocking tale not true ; and 
from a respectable gentleman 5 connected with the lady's 
family, I have received such information and remarks, 
as joined to my own inquiries, will, I think, render it 
at least somewhat doubtful, especially when we con- 

« This character of the Life of Savage was not written by Fielding, as has been 
supposed, but most probably by Ralph, who, as appears from the minutes of the 
Partners of ' The Champion' in the possession of Mr. Reed of Staple Inn, succeed- 
ed Fielding in his share of the paper, before the date of that eulogium. 

' The late Francis Cockayne Cust, Esc., one of his Majesty's Counsel. 


sider that it must have originated from the person ; 

himself who went by the name of diehard Savage. f ^ 

.... . .. / . ... . . * 

Jt the maxim, falsam in uno^jalsum in omnibus, were 35. 

to be received without qualification, the credit of Sav- 
age's narrative, as conveyed to us, would be annihilat- 
ed; for it contains some assertions which, beyond 
question, are not true. 

1. In order to induce a belief that the Karl Rivers, 
on account of a criminal connection with whom, Lady 
Macclesfield is said to have been divorced from her 
husband, by Act of Parliament, 6 had a peculiar anxiety 
about the child which she bore to him, it is alledged, 
that his Lordship gave him his own name, and had it 
duly recorded in the register of St. Andrew's, Holborn. 
I have carefully inspected that register, but n<> such 
entry is to be found. 7 

2. It is stated, that "Lady Macclesfield having lived 
for some time upon very uneasy terms with her hus- 
band, thought a publick confession of adultery the 

« 1697. 

7 [Mr. Gust's reasonings with respect to the filiation of Richard Savage, alwaj 
appeared to me extremely unsatisfactory ; and is entirely overturned by the fol- 
lowing decisive observations, for which the reader is indebted to the unwearied 
researches of Mr. Bindley. — The story on which Mr. Cust so much relies, that 
Savage was a supposititious child, not the son of Lord Rivers and Lady Mace' 
field, but the offspring of a shoemaker, introduced in consequence of her real son's 
death, was, without doubt, grounded on the circumstance of Lady Macclesfield 
having, in 1G96, previously to the birth of Savage, had a daughter by the Earl 
Rivers, who died in her infancy : a fact, which, as the same gentleman observes 
to me, was proved in the course of the proceedings on Lord Macclesfield's Bill of 
Divorce. Most fictions of this kind have some admixture of truth in them. M.] 

[From " the Earl of Macclesfield's Case," which, in 1697-S, was presented to 
the Lords, in order to procure an act of divorce, it appears, that " Anne, Coun- 
tess of Macclesfield, under the name of Madam Smith, in Fox Court, near Bm 
Street, Holborn, was delivered of a male child by Mrs. Wright, a midwife, on Sat- 
urday the 16th of January, 1696-7, at six o'clock in the morning, who was baptiz- 
ed on the Monday following, and registered by the name of Richard, the son 
John Smith, by Mr. Burbridge, assistant to Dr. Manningham's Curate for St. An- 
drews, Holborn : that the child was christened on Monday the 18th of January 
in Fox Court ; and, from the privacy, was supposed by Mr. Burbridge to be " a 
by-blow or bastard." It also appears that during her delivery the lady won 
mask; and that Mary Pegler on the next day after the baptism (Tuesday) took a 
male-child, whose mother was called Madam Smith, from the house of Mr<. Pheas- 
ant, in Fox Court, [running from Brook-street into Gray's-Jnn Lane,] who w 
by the name of Mrs. Lee. 

Conformable to this statement is the entry in the Register of St. Andrew's, Hol- 
born, which is as follows, and which unquestionably record- the baptism of Rich- 
ard Savage, to whom Lord Rivers gave his own Christian n. fixed to the 
assumed surname of his mother :" Jan. 1696-7. Richard, son of John Smith and 
Mary, in Fox Court, in Grav's-Inn Lane, baptised the 18th." J. B.] 


1744. most obvious and expeditious method of obtaining her 
je{^ liberty ;" and Johnson, assuming this to be true, stig- 
35. matises her with indignation, as "the wretch who had, 
without scruple, proclaimed herself an adultress." 8 
But 1 have perused the Journals of both houses of 
Parliament at the period of her divorce, and there find 
it authentically ascertained, that so far from voluntarily 
submitting to the ignominious charge of adultery, she 
made a strenuous defence by her Counsel ; the bill 
having been first moved 15th of January, 1697-8, in 
the house of Lords, and proceeded on, (with various 
applications for time to bring up witnesses at a distance, 
&c.) at intervals, till the 3d of March, when it passed. 
It was brought to the Commons, by a message from 
the Lords, the 5th of March, proceeded on the 7th, 
10th, 11th, 14th, and loth, on which day, after a full 
examination of witnesses on both sides, and hearing of 
Counsel, it was reported without amendments, passed, 
and carried to the Lords. That Lady Macclesfield was 
convicted of the crime of which she was accused, can- 
not be denied ; but the question now is, whether the 
person calling himself Richard Savage was her son. 

It has been said, that when Earl Rivers was dying, 
and anxious to provide for all his natural children, he 
was informed by Lady Macclesfield that her son by him 
was dead. Whether, then, shall we believe that this 
was a malignant lie, invented by a mother to prevent 
her own child from receiving the bounty of his father, 
which was accordingl}' the consequence, if the person 
whose life Johnson wrote, was her son ; or shall we not 
rather believe that the person who then assumed the 
name of Richard Savage was an impostor, being in re- 
ality the son of the shoe-maker, under whose wife's 
care Lady Macclesfield's child was placed ; that after 
the death of the real Richard Savage, he attempted to 
personate him ; and that the fraud being known to La- 
dy Macclesfield, he was therefore repulsed by her with 
just resentment. 

8 [No divorce can be obtained in the Courts, on confession of the party. There 
must be proofs, K.] 


There is a strong circumstance in support of the last '744. 
supposition, though it has been mentioned as an aggra- 'y^ 
vation of Lady Macclesfield's unnatural conduct, and 35, 
that is, her having prevented him from obtaining the 
benefit of a legacy left to him by Mrs. Lloyd, his god- 
mother. For if there was such a legacy left, his not be- 
ing able to obtain payment of it, must be imputed to his 
consciousness that he was not the real person. The 
just inference should be, that by the death of Lady 
Macclesfield's child before its god-mother, the legacy 
became lapsed, and therefore that Johnson's Richard 
Savage was an impostor. 

If he had a title to the legacy, he could not have 
found any difticnltv in recovering it ; for had the exec- 
utors resisted his claim, the whole costs, as well as the 
legacy, must have been paid by them, if he had been 
the child to whom it was given. 

The talents of Savage, and the mingled fire, rudeness, 
pride, meanness, and ferocity of his character, 8 concur 
in making it credible that he was fit to plan and carry 
on an ambitious and daring scheme of imposture, simi- 
lar instances of which have not been wanting in higher 
spheres, in the history of different countries, and have 
had a considerable degree of success. 

Yet, on the other hand, to the companion of John- 
son, (who, through whatever medium he was con- 
veyed into this world, — be it ever so doubtful ' : To 
whom related, or by whom begot," was, unquestionably, 
a man of no common endowments,) we must allow the 
weight of general repute as to his Status or parentage, 
though illicit ; and supposing him to be an impostor, it. 
seems strange that Lord Tyrconnel, the nephew of La- 
dy Macclesfield, should patronise him, and even admit 

s Johnson's companion appears to have persuaded that lofty-mi nded man, that he 
resembled him in having a noble pride ; for Johnson, after painting in strong col- 
ours the quarrel between Lord Tyrconnel and Savage, asserts that " the spirit of 
Air. Savage, indeed, never suffered him to solicit a reconciliation : he returned re- 
proach for reproach, and insult for insult." But the respectable gentleman to 
whom I have alluded, has in his possession a letter from Savage, after Lord 1 yr- 
connel had discarded him, addressed to the Reverend Mr. Gilbert, his Lordship's 
Chaplain, in wluch he requests him, in the humblest manner, to represent 
case to the Viscount. 


1744. him as a guest in his family. 9 Lastly, it must ever ap- 
yEtaT P ear yer y suspicious, that three different accounts of the 
35. ' Life of Richard Savage, one published in " The Plain 
Dealer," in 1724, another in 1727, and another by the 
powerful pen of Johnson, in 1744, and all of them while 
Lady Macclesfield was alive, should, notwithstanding 
the severe attacks upon her, have been suffered to pass 
without any publick and effectual contradiction. 

I have thus endeavoured to sum up the evidence up- 
on the case, as fairly as I can ; and the result seems to 
be, that the world must vibrate in a state of uncertainty 
as to what was the truth. 

This digression, 1 trust, will not be censured, as it 
relates to a matter exceedingly curious, and very inti- 
mately connected with Johnson, both as a man and an 
authour. ' 

tie this year wrote the " Preface to the Harleian 
Miscellany."* The selection of the pamphlets of which 
it was composed was made by Mr. Oldys, a man of ea- 
ger curiosity, and indefatigable diligence, who first ex- 

9 Trusting to Savage's information, Johnson represents this unhappy man's be- 
ing received as a companion by Lord Tyrconnel,and pensioned by liis Lordship, 
as posteriour to Savage's conviction and pardon. But I am assured, that Savage 
had received the voluntary bounty of Lord Tyrconnel, and had been dismissed by 
him long before the murder was committed, and that his Lordship was very instru- 
mental in procuring Savage's pardon, by his intercession with the Queen, through 
Lady Hertford. If, therefore, he had been desirous of preventing the publication 
by Savage, he would have left him to his fate. Indeed I must observe, that although 
Johnson mentions that Lord Tyrconnel's patronage of Savage was " upon his prom- 
ise to lay aside his design of exposing the cruelty of his mother," the great biogra- 
pher has forgotten that he himself has mentioned, that Savage's story had been 
told several years before in " The Plain Dealer ?" from which he quotes this strong- 
saying of the generous Sir Richard Steele, that the " inhumanity of his mother had 
given him a right to find every good man his father." At the same time it must 
be acknowledged, that Lady Macclesfield and her relations might still wish that 
her story should not be brought into more conspicuous notice by the satirical pen 
of Savage. 

1 Miss Mason, after having forfeited the title of Lady Macclesfield by divorce, 
was married to Colonel Brett, and, it is said, was well known in all the polite cir- 
cles. Colley Cibber, I am informed, had so high an opinion of her taste and judge- 
ment as to genteel life and manners, that he submitted every scene of his " Care- 
less Husband" to Mrs. Brett's revisal and correction. Colonel Brett was reported 
to be too free in his gallantry with his Lady's Maid. Mrs. Brett came into a 
room one day in her own house, and found the Colonel and her maid both fast 
asleep in two chairs. She tied a white handkerchief round her husband's neck, 
which was a sufficient proof that she had discovered his intrigue ; but she never 
at any time took notice of it to him. This incident, as I am told, gave occasion tr- 
the well-wrought scene of Sir Charles and Lady Easy, and Edging. 

DR. JOHNSON. 1 t3 

erted that spirit of inquiry into the literature of the old l' 

English writers, bv which the works of our great dra- T\T 

°. • ■ .1.1 lit . 

matic poet have of late been so signally illustrate d. 36. 

In 174J he published a pamphlet entitled, " Miscel- 
laneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with 
Remarks on Sir T. 11. 's (Sir Thomas Hanmer's) Edition 
of Shakspeare/'* To which he affixed, proposals for a 
new edition of that poet. 

As we do not trace any thing else published by him 
during the course of this year, we may conjecture that 
he was occupied entirely with that work. But the lit- 
tle encouragement which was given by the publick to 
his anonymous proposals for the execution of a task 
which Warburton was known to have undertaken, prob- 
ably damped his ardour. His pamphlet, however, was 
highly esteemed, and was fortunate enough to obtain 
the approbation even of the supercilious Warburton 
himself, who, in the Preface to his Shakspeare publish- 
ed two vears afterwards, thus mentioned it : " As to all 
those things which have been published under the titles 
of Essays, Remarks, Observations, &c. on Shakspeare, if 
you except some Critical Notes on Macbeth, given as 
a specimen of a projected edition, and written, as ap- 
pears, by a man of parts and genius, the rest are abso- 
lutely below a serious notice." 

Of this flattering distinction shewn to him by War- 
burton, a very grateful remembrance was ever enter- 
tained by Johnson, who said, " He praised me at a time 
when praise was of value to me." 

In 1746 it is probable that he was still employed up- 
on his Shakspeare, which perhaps he laid aside for a time, 
upon account of the high expectations which were 
formed of Warburton's edition of that great poet. It is 
somewhat curious, that his literary career appears to 
have been almost totally suspended in the years 17 i > 
and 1746, those vears which were marked by a civil 
war in Great-Britain, when a rash attempt was made to 
restore the House of Stuart to the throne. That he had 
a tenderness for that unfortunate House, is well known ; 
and some may fancifully imagine, that a sympathetick 
anxiety impeded the exertion of his intellectual now- 


1746. ers : but I am inclined to think, that he was, during 
^^ this time, sketching the outlines of his great philolog- 
37. ical work. 

None of his letters during those years are extant, so 
far as 1 can discover. This is much to be regretted. It 
might afford some entertainment to see how he then ex- 
pressed himself to his private friends concerning State 
affairs. Dr. Adams informs me, that " at this time a 
favourite object which he had in contemplation was 
4 The Life of Alfred ;' in which, from the warmth with 
which he spoke about it, he would, I believe, had he 
been master of his own will, have engaged himself 
rather than on any other subject." 

In 1747 it is supposed that the Gentleman's Maga- 
zine for May was enriched by him with five short po- 
etical pieces, distinguished by three asterisks. The 
first is a translation, or rather a paraphrase, of a Latin 
Epitaph on Sir Thomas Hammer. Whether the Latin 
was his, or not, I have never heard, though 1 should 
think it probably was, if it be certain that he wrote the 
English ; as to which my only cause of doubt is, that 
his slighting character of Hanmer as an editor, in his 
" Observations on Macbeth," is very different from that 
in the Epitaph. It may be said, that there is the same 
contrariety between the character in the Observations, 
and that in his own Preface to Shakspeare ; but a con- 
siderable time elapsed between the one publication 
and the other, whereas the Observations and the Epi- 
taph came close together. The others are, " To Miss 
, on her giving the Authour a gold and silk net- 
work Purse of her own weaving ;" " Stella in Mourn- 
ing ;" " The Winter's Walk ;" " An Ode ;" and, " To 
Lyce, an elderly Lady." 1 am not positive that all these 
were his productions; 2 but as "The Winter's Walk," 
has never been controverted to be his, and all of them 

2 [In the Universal Visiter, to which Johnson contributed, the mark which is 
affixed to some pieces unquestionably his, is also found subjoined to others, of 
which he certainly was not the authour. The mark therefore will not ascertain 
the poems in question to have been written by him. Some of them were proba- 
bly the productions of Hawkesworth, who, it is believed, was afflicted with the 
gout. The verses on a Purse were inserted afterwards in Mrs. Williams's Miscel- 
lanies, and are, unquestionably, Johnson's. M.] 


have the same mark, it is reasonable to conclude that 1747. 
they are all written by the same hand. Yet to the jjJT^ 
Ode, in which we find a passage very characteristick 33. 

of him, being a learned description of the gout, 

" Unhappy, whom to beds of pain 
" Arthritick tyranny consigns ;" 
there is the following note, " The authour being ill of 
the gout:" but Johnson was not attacked with that 
distemper till a very late period of his life. May not 
this, however, be a poetical fiction \ Why may not a 
poet suppose himself to have the gout, as well as sup- 
pose himself to be in love, of which we have innumera- 
ble instances, and which has been admirably ridiculed 
by Johnson in his " Life of Cowley I" 1 have also 
some difficulty to believe that he could produce such a 
group of conceits as appear in the verses to Lyce, in 
which he claims for this ancient personage as good a 
right to be assimilated to heaven, as nymphs whom 
other poets have flattered ; he therefore ironically 
ascribes to her the attributes of the sky, in such stan- 
zas as this : 

4i Her teeth the night with darkness dies, 
" She's starred with pimples o'er; 

" Her tongue like nimble lightning plies, 
" And can with thunder roar." 
But as at a verv advanced age he could condescend to 
trifle in namby-pamby rhymes, to please Mrs. Thrale and 
her daughter, he may have, in his earlier years, com- 
posed such a piece as this. 

It is remarkable, that in the first edition of " The 
Winter's Walk," the concluding line is much more 
Johnsonian than it was afterwards printed ; for in sub- 
sequent editions after, praying Stella to " snatch him to 
her arms," he says, 

" And shield me from the ills of life." 
Whereas in the first edition it is 

" And hide me from the sight of life." 
A horrour at life in general is more consonant with 
Johnson's habitual gloomy cast of thought. 

1 have heard him repeat with great energy the fol- 
lowing verses, which appeared in the Gentleman's Mag- 

VOL. I. 10 




1747. aziue for April this year ; but I have no authority to 

^'^say they were his own. Indeed one of the best crit- 

38. icks of our age suggests to me, that " the word indif- 

ferentlif being used in the sense of without concern, 

and being also very unpoetical, renders it improbable 

that they should have been his composition." 

" On Lord Lovat's Execution. 

4i Pity'd by gentle minds Kilmarnock died ; 
" The brave, Balmerino, were on thy side ; 
" Radcliffe, unhappy in his crimes of youth, 
" Steady in what he still mistook for truth, 
" Beheld his death so decently unmov'd, 

The soft lamented, and the brave approved. 
• But Lovat's fate indifferently we view, 

True to no King, to no religion true : 
" "No fair forgets the ruin he has done ; 
" No child laments the tyrant of his son ; 
" No tori/ pities, thinking what he was ; 
" No whig compassions, for he left the cause ; 
" The brave regret not, for he was not brave ? 
" The honest mourn not, knowing him a knave !" 3 

This year his old pupil and friend, David Garrick, 
having become joint patentee and manager of Drury- 
lane theatre, Johnson honoured his opening of it with 
a Prologue,* which for just and manly dramatick crit- 
icism on the whole range of the English stage, as well 
as for poetical excellence,* is unrivalled. Like the 

3 These verses are somewhat too severe on the extraordinary person who is the 
chief figure in them ; for he was undoubtedly brave. His pleasantry during his 
solemn trial (in which, by the way, I have heard Mr. David Hume observe, that 
we have one of the very few speeches of Mr. Murray, now Earl of Mansfield, au- 
thentically given) was very remarkable. When asked if he had any questions to 
put to Sir Everard Fawkener, who was one of the strongest witnesses against him, 
he answered " I only wish him joy of his young wife." And after sentence of death, 
in the horrible terms in such cases of treason, was pronounced upon him, and he 
wqJLretiring from the bar, he said, " Fare you well, my Lords, we shall not all meet 
again in one place." He behaved with perfect composure at his execution, and 
called OUt " Duke et decorum est pro patria mori." 

4 My friend Mr. Courtenay, whose eulogy on Johnson's Latin Poetry has beep 
inserted in this Work, is no less happy in praising his English Poetry. 

But hark, he sings ! the strain even Pope admires ; 
Indignant virtue her own bard inspires. 


celebrated Epilogue to the " Distressed Mother,'' it 1747. 
was, during- the season, often called for by the audience. jT t ^ 
The most striking and brilliant passages of it have been 38. 
so often repeated, and are so well recollected by all the 
lovers of the drama, and of poetry, that it would be su- 
perfluous to point them out. In the Gentleman's Mag- 
azine for December this year, he inserted an " Ode on 
Winter," which is, 1 think, an admirable specimen of 
his genius for lyrick poetry. 

But the year 1747 is distinguished as the epoch, 
when Johnson's arduous and important work, his Dic- 
tionary of the English Language, was announc- 
ed to the world, by the publication of its Plan or Pros- 

How long this immense undertaking had been the 
object of his contemplation, I do not know. 1 once 
asked him by what means he had attained to that aston- 
ishing knowledge of our language, by which he was 
enabled to realise a design of such extent and accumu- 
lated difficulty. He told me, that " it was not the ef- 
fect of particular study ; but that it had grown up in 
his mind insensibly." I have been informed by Mr. 
James Dodsley, that several years before this period, 
when Johnson was one day sitting in his brother Rob- 
ert's shop, he heard his brother suggest to him, that a 
Dictionary of the English Language would be a work 
that would be well received by the publick ; that 
Johnson seemed at first to catch at the proposition, but, 
after a pause, said, in his abrupt decisive manner, " I 
believe I shall not undertake it." That he, however, 
had bestowed much thought upon the subject, before 
he published his " Plan," is evident from the enlarged, 
clear, and accurate views which it exhibits ; and we 
find him mentioning in that tract, that many of the 
writers whose testimonies were to be produced as au- 
thorities, were selected by Pope ; which proves that he 
had been furnished, probably by Mr. Robert DodHey. 

Sublime as Juvenal he pours his lays, 

And with the Roman shares congenial praise ; — 

In glowing numbers now he fires the age, 

And Shakspeare's sun relumes the clouded stage. 


1747. with whatever hints that eminent poet had contributed 
vEt-aT towar< -l s a great literary project, that had been the sub- 
38. "ject of important consideration in a former reign. 

The booksellers who contracted with Johnson, single 
and unaided, for the execution of a work, which in 
other countries has not been effected but by the co- 
operating exertions of many, were Mr. Robert Dods- 
ley, Mr. Charles Hitch, Mr. Andrew Millar, the tw© 
Messieurs Longman, and the two Messieurs Knapton. 
The price stipulated was fifteen hundred and seventy- 
five pounds. 

The " Plan" was addressed to Philip Dormer, Earl 
of Chesterfield, then one of his Majesty's Principal Sec- 
retaries of State ; a nobleman who was very ambitious 
of literary distinction, and who, upon being informed 
of the design, had expressed himself in terms very fa- 
vourable to its success. There is, perhaps in every 
thing of any consequence, a secret history which it 
would be amusing to know, could we have it authen- 
tically communicated. Johnson told me, 5 "Sir, the 
way in which the plan of my Dictionary came to be in- 
scribed to Lord Chesterfield, was this : 1 had neglected 
to write it by the time appointed. Dodsley suggested 
a desire to have it addressed to Lord Chesterfield. I 
laid hold of this as a pretext for delay, that it might be 
better done, and let Dodsley have his desire. 1 said 
to my friend, Dr. Bathurst, ' Now if any good comes 
of my addressing to Lord Chesterfield, it will be ascrib- 
ed to deep policy, when, in fact, it was only a casual 
excuse for laziness," 

It is worthy of observation, that the i; Plan" has not 
only the substantial merit of comprehension, perspicu- 
ity, and precision, but that the language of it is unex- 
ceptionably excellent ; it being altogether free from 
that inflation of style, and those uncommon but apt and 
energetick words, which in some of his writings have 
been censured, with more petulance than justice ; and 
never was there a more dignified strain of compliment 
than that in which he courts the attention of one who. 

* September 22, 1777, going from Ashbourne in Derbyshire, to see Islam. 


he had been persuaded to believe would be a respecta- 1747. 
ble patron. ~22 

" VV ith regard to questions ot purity or propriety, 38, 
(says he) 1 was once in doubt whether I should not at- 
tribute to myself too much in attempting to decide them, 
and whether my province was to extend beyond the 
proposition of the question, and the display of the suf- 
frages on each side ; but 1 have been since determined 
by your Lordship's opinion, to interpose my own judge- 
ment, and shall therefore endeavour to support what 
appears to me most consonant to grammar and reason. 
Ausonius thought that modesty forbade him to plead 
inability for a task to which Caesar had judged him 
equal : 

Cur me posse negem posse quod die putut ! 

And I may hope, my Lord, that since you, whose au- 
thority in our language is so generally acknowledged, 
have commissioned me to declare my own opinion, 1 
shall be considered as exercising a kind of vicarious ju- 
risdiction ; and that the power which might have been 
denied to my own claim, will be readily allowed me as 
the delegate of your Lordship." 

This passage proves, that Johnson's addressing his 
•' Plan" to Lord Chesterfield was not merely in conse- 
quence of the result of a report by means of Dodsley, 
that the Earl favoured the design ; but that there had 
been a particular communication with his Lordship 
concerning: it. Dr. Tavlor told me, that Johnson sent 
his " Plan" to him in manuscript, for his perusal ; and 
that when it was lying upon his table, Mr. William 
Whitehead happened to pay him a visit, and behii; 
shewn it, was highly pleased with such parts of it as he 
had time to read, and begged to take it home with him, 
which he was allowed to do ; that from him it got into 
the hands of a noble Lord, who carried it to Lord Ches- 
terfield. When Tavlor observed this might be an ad- 
vantage, Johnson replied, " No, Sir, it would have come 
out with more bloom, if it had not been seen before by 
any body." 


1748. The opinion conceived of it by another noble authour, 
]eJ^ appears from the following extract of a letter from the 
39. Earl of Orrery to Dr. Birch : 

" Caledon, Dec. 30, 1747." 
" I have just now seen the specimen of Mr. John- 
son's Dictionary, addressed to Lord Chesterfield. I 
am much pleased with the plan, and I think the speci- 
men is one of the best that I have ever read. Most 
specimens disgust, rather than prejudice us in favour 
of the work to follow ; but the language of Mr. John- 
son's is good, and the arguments are properly and mod- 
estly expressed. However, some expressions may be 
cavilled at, but thev are trifles. I'll mention one : the 
barren Laurel. The laurel is not barren, in any sense 
whatever ; it bears fruits and flowers. Sed hce sunt me- 
ga*, and I have great expectations from the perform- 
ance." 6 

That he was fully aware of the arduous nature of the 
undertaking, he acknowledges; and shews himself per- 
fectly sensible of it in the conclusion of his " Plan ;" 
but he had a noble consciousness of his own abilities, 
which enabled him to go on with undaunted spirit. 

Dr. Adams found him one day busy at his Diction- 
ary, when the following dialogue ensued. " Adams. 
This is a great work, Sir. How are you to get all the 
etymologies I Johnson. Why, Sir, here is a shelf with 
Junius, and Skinner, and others ; and there is a Welch 
gentleman who has published a collection of Welch 
proverbs, who will help me with the Welch. Adams. 
But, Sir, how can you do this in three years ? Johnson. 
Sir, I have no doubt that 1 can do it in three years. 
Adams. But the French Acadenry, which consists of 
forty members, took forty years to compile their Diction- 
ary. Johnson. Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. 
Let me see ; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As 
three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an En- 
glishman to a Frenchman." With so much ease and 
pleasantry could he talk of that prodigious labour which 
he had undertaken to execute. 

" Birch MSS. Brit. Mus. 4303. 


The publick has had, from another pen, 7 a long de- 1748. 
Kail of what had been done in this country by prior g^t 
Lexicographers ; and no doubt Johnson was wise to 30. 
avail himself of them, as far so they went : but the 
(earned, yet judicious research of etymology, the vari- 
ous, yet accurate display of definition, and the rich col- 
lection of authorities, were reserved for the superiour 
mind of our great philologist. For the mechanical part 
he employed, as he told me, six amanuenses ; and let 
it be remembered by the natives of North-Britain, to 
whom he is supposed to have been so hostile, that live 
of them were of that country. There were two Mes- 
sieurs Alacbean ; Mr. Shiels, who we shall hereafter 
see partly wrote the Lives of the Poets to which the 
name of Gibber is affixed ; s Mr. Stewart, son of Mr. 
George Stewart, bookseller at Edinburgh ; and a Mr. 
Maitiand. The sixth of these humble assistants was 
Mr. Peyton, who, 1 believe, taught Trench, and pub- 
lished some elementary tracts. 

To all these painful labourers, Johnson shewed a 
never-ceasing kindness, so far as they stood in need of 
it. The elder Mr. Macbean had afterwards the honour 
©f being Librarian to Archibald, Duke of Argyle, for 
many years, but was left without a shilling. Johnson 
wrote for him a Preface to " A System of Ancient Ge- 
ography f and, by the favour of Lord Thurlow, got 
him admitted a poor brother of the Charterhouse. For 
Shiels, who died of a consumption, he had much ten- 
derness ; and it has been thought that some choice 
sentences in the Lives of the Poets were supplied by 
him. Peyton, when reduced to penury, had frequent 
aid from the bounty of Johnson, who at last was at the 
expence of burying him and his wife. 

While the Dictionary was aroinff forward, Johnson 
lived part of the time in Holborn, part in Gough- 
square, Fleet-street; and he had an upper room fitted 
up like a counting-house {'or the purpose, in which he 
gave to the copyists their several tasks. The words. 
partly taken from other dictionaries, and partly suppli- 

7 See Sir John Hawkins's Life of Johrr^p- 
■ See Vo!. iit, imde- April 10, T "*>' 


1748. ed by himself, having been first written down with 
EtaT s P aces ^\ between them, he delivered in writing their 
39. ' etymologies, definitions, and various significations. 
The authorities were copied from the books themselves, 
in which he had marked the passages with a black-lead 
pencil, the traces of which could easily be effaced. J 
have seen several of them, in which that trouble had 
not been taken ; so that they were just as when used 
by the copyists. It is remarkable, that he was so at- 
tentive in the choice of the passages in which words 
were authorised, that one may read page after page of 
his Dictionary with improvement and pleasure ; and it 
should not pass unobserved, that he has quoted no au~ 
thour whose writings had a tendency to hurt sound re- 
ligion and morality. 

The necessary expence of preparing a work of such 
magnitude for the press, must have been a considerable 
deduction from the price stipulated to be paid for the 
copy-right. I understand that nothing was allowed by 
the booksellers on that account ; and I remember his 
telling me, that a large portion of it having, by mistake, 
been written upon both sides of the paper, so as to be 
inconvenient for the compositor, it cost him twenty 
pounds to have it transcribed upon one side only. 

He is now to be considered as i; tugging at his oar,'' 
as engaged in a steady continued course of occupation, 
sufficient to employ all his time for some years ; and 
which was the best preventive of that constitutional 
melancholy which was ever lurking about him, ready to 
trouble his quiet. But his enlarged and lively mind 
could not be satisfied without more diversity of em- 
ployment, and the pleasure of animated relaxation. 9 
He therefore not only exerted his lalents in occasional 
composition, very different from Lexicography, but 
formed a club in Ivy-lane, Paternoster-row, with a 

9 [For the sake of relaxation from his literary labours, and probably also fot 
Mrs. Johnson's health, he this Summer visited Tunbridge Wells, then a place of 
much greater resort than it is at present. Here he met Mr. Cibber, Mr. Garrick, 
Mr. Samuel Richardson, Mr. Whiston, Mr. Onslow, (the Speaker) Mr. Pitt, Mr. 
Lyttelton and several other distinguished persons. In a print, representing some of 
" the remarkable characters" who were at Tunbridge Wells in 1748, (See Rich- 
-<rbson's Correspondence,) Dr. Johnson stands the first figure. M.] 



view to enjoy literary discussion, and amuse his even- 1748. 
ing hours. The members associated with him in this jnT? 
little society were his beloved friend Dr. Richard l>a- 39, ' 
thurst, Mr. Hawkesworth, afterwards well known hv 
his writings, Mr. John Hawkins, an attorney," and a 
iew others of different professions. 

In the Gentleman's Magazine tor May of this year 
he wrote a " Life of Iloscommon,"* with Notes ; which 
he afterwards much improved, (indenting the notes in- 
to text,) and inserted amongst his Lives of the English 

Mr. Dodsley this year brought out his Preceptor, 
one of the most valuable books for the improvement of 
young minds that has appeared in any language ; and 
to this meritorious work Johnson furnished "The Pre- 
face,"* containing a general sketch of the book, with a 
short and perspicuous recommendation of each article ; 
as also, " The Vision of Theodore, the Hermit, found 
in his Cell,"* a most beautiful allegory of human life, 
under the figure of ascending the mountain of Exist- 
ence. The Bishop of Dromore heard Dr. Johnson say. 
that he thought this was the best thing he ever wrote. 

In January, 1749, he published "The Vanity or 
Human Wishes, being the Tenth Satire of Juvenal 
imitated."* He, I believe, composed it the preceding 
year.- Mrs. Johnson, for the sake of country air, had 
lodgings at Hampstead, to which he resorted occasion- 
ally, and there the greatest part, if not the whole, of this 
Imitation was written. The fervid rapidity with which 
it was produced, is scarcely credible. 1 have heard 
hiin say, that he composed seventy lines of it in one 
day, without putting one of them upon paper till they 
were finished. I remember when I once regretted to 

1 He was afterwards for several years Chairman of the Middlesex Justices, and 
upon occasion of presenting an address to the King, accepted the usual offer of 
Knighthood. He is authour of " A History of Musick," in five volumes in quarto. 
By assiduous attendance upon Johnson in his last illness, he obtained the office of 
one of his executors ; in consequence of which, the booksellers of London employ- 
ed him to publish an edition of Dr. Johnson's works, and to write his Life. 

1 Sir John Hawkins, with solemn "accuracy, represents this poem as a conse- 
quence of the indifferent reception of his tr: gedy. Hut the fact is, that the poem 
was published on the 9th of January , and :' dy w;ts not acted till the 'irh of 

the February following. 

vol. i. 20 


1749. him that he had not given us more of Juvenal's Satires,, 
^^ he said he probably should give more, for he had them 
40. all in his head ; by which I understood, that he had the 
originals and correspondent allusions floating in his 
mind, which he could, when he pleased, embody and 
render permanent without much labour. Some of 
them, however, he observed were too gross for imita- 

The profits of a single poem, however excellent, ap- 
pear to have been very small in the last reign, compar- 
ed with what a publication of the same size has since 
been known to yield. 1 have mentioned upon John- 
son's own authority, that for his London he had only 
ten guineas ; and now, after his fame was established, 
he got for his " Vanity of Human Wishes" but five 
guineas more, as is proved by an authentick document 
in my possession. 3 

It will be observed, that he reserves to himself the 
right of printing one edition of this satire, which was 
his practice upon occasion of the sale of all his writings ; 
it being his fixed intention to publish at some period, 
for his own profit, a complete collection of his works. 
His " V anitv of Human Wishes" has less of common 
life, but more of a philosophick dignity than his " Lon- 
don." More readers, therefore, will be delighted with 
the pointed spirit of" London," than with the profound 
reflection of " The Vanity of Human Wishes." Gar- 
rick, for instance, observed in his sprightly manner, with 
more vivacity than regard to just discrimination, as is 
usual with wits, " When Johnson lived much with the 
Herve} 7 s, and saw a good deal of what was passing in 
life, he wrote his ' London,' which is lively and easy. 
When he became more retired he gave us his ' Vanity 
of Human Wishes/ which is as hard as Greek. Had 
he gone on to imitate another satire, it would have been 
as hard as Hebrew." 4 - 

5 « Nov. 25, 1748, I received of Mr. Dodsley fifteen guineas, for which I assign 
to him the right of copy of an Imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal, written 
by me; reserving to myself the right of printing one edition. Sam. Johnson." 

" London, 29 June, 1786. A true copy, from the original in Dr. Johnson's 
hand-writing. James Dodsley." 

4 From Mr. Langton. 


But " The Vanity of Human Wishes" is, in the opin- L 7i:'- 

ion of the best judges, as hi^li an effort of ethick poe- ^Tt" 
try as any laueuaffe can shew. The instances of varie- -o 
ty of disappointment are chosen so judiciously, and 
painted so strongly, that, the moment they are read, 
they bring conviction to every thinking- mind. That of 
the scholar must have depressed the too sanguine ex- 
pectations of many an ambitious student. s That of 
the warrior, Charles of Sweden, is, 1 think, as highly 
finished a picture as can possibly be conceived. 

Were all the other excellencies of this poem annihi- 
lated, it must ever have our grateful reverence from its 
noble conclusion ; in which we are consoled with the 
assurance that happiness may be attained, if we " ap- 
ply our hearts" to piety : 

" Where then shall hope and fear their objects find ! 

"Shall dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind ! 

" Must helpless man in ignorance sedate, 

" Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate ? 

" Shall no dislike alarm, no wishes rise, 

" No cries attempt the mercy of the skies ? 

"Inquirer, cease ; petitions yet remain, 

"•Which Heav'n mav hear, nor deem Religion vain. 

"Still raise for good the supplicating voice, 

" But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice. 

s In this poem one of the instances mentioned of unfortunate learned men is Lyd- 
iat : 

" Hear Lydiat's life, and Galileo's end." 
The History of Lydiat being little known, the following account of him may be 
acceptable to many of my readers. It appeared as a note in the Supplement to 
the Gentleman's Magazine for 1748, in which some passages extracted from John- 
son's poem were inserted, and it should have been added in the subsequent edi- 
tions. — A very learned divine and mathematician, fellow of New College, Oxort, 
and Rector of Okerton, near Banbury. He wrote, among many others, a Latin 
treatise ' De natura cali, fsfc.' in which he attacked the sentiments of Scaligcr and 
Aristotle, not bearing to hear it urged, that somethings are true in philosophy and fait 
in divinity. He made above 600 Sermons on the harmony of the Evangelists. Be- 
ing unsuccessful in publishing his works, he lay in the prison of Bocardo at Oxford, 
and in the King's Bench, till Bishop Usher, Dr. Laud, Sir William Boswell, and 
Dr. Pink, released him by paying his debts. He petitioned King Charles I. to bi 
sent into Ethiopia, &c. to procure MSS. Having spoken in favour of Monarchy 
and bishops, he was plundered by the parliament forces, and twice carried awaj 
prisoner from his rectory ; and afterwards had not a shirt to shift him in three 
months, without he borrowed it, and died very poor in 1646." 



1749. " Safe in His hand, whose eye discerns afar 
iEtat! "The secret ambush of a specious prayer ; 
40. " Implore his aid, in his decisions rest, 

" Secure whate'er he gives he gives the best, 

" Yet when the sense of sacred presence fires, 

" And strong devotion to the skies aspires, 

" Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind, 

" Obedient passions, and a will resign'd ; 

" For love, which scarce collective man can fill ; 

" For patience, sovereign o'er transmuted ill ; 

" For faith, which panting for a happier seat, 

" Counts death kind Nature's signal for retreat, 

"These goods for man the laws of Heaven ordain, 

" These goods he grants, who grants the power to gain ; 

" With these celestial wisdom calms the mind, 

" And makes the happiness she does not find." 6 

Garrick being now vested with theatrical power by 
being manager of Drurv-lane theatre, he kindly and 
generously made use of it to bring out Johnson's trage- 
dy, which had been long kept back for want of encour- 
agement. But in this benevolent purpose he met with 
no small difficulty from the temper of Johnson, which 
could not brook that a drama which he had formed with 

[In this poem, a line in which the danger attending on female beauty is men- 
tioned, has very generally, I believe, been misunderstood : 

" Yet Vane could tell what ills from beauty spring, 
" And Sedley curs'd the form that pleas 'd a king." 
The lady mentioned in the first of these verses, was not the celebrated Lady 
Vane, whose memoirs were given to the publick by Dr. Smollett, but Anne Vane, 
who was mistress to Frederick Prince of Wales, and died in 1 736, not long before 
Johnson settled in London. Some account of this lady was published, under the 
title of The Secret History of Vanella, 8vo., 1732. See also Vanella in the Straw, 
4to., 1732. In Mr. Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides, we find some observations, 
respecting the lines in question : 

" In Dr. Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes there is the following passage : 
" The teeming mother anxious for her race, 
" Begs for each birth the fortune of a face ; 
" Yet Vane," &c. 
a Lord Hailes told him, [Johnson] he was mistaken in the instances he had giv- 
en of unfortunate fair ones, for neither Vane nor Sedley had a title to that descrip- 
tion." — His lordship therefore thought fit that the lines should rather have run 
thus : 

Yet Shore could tell 

And Valiere curs'd 

" Our friend (he adds in a subsequent note, addressed to Mr. Boswell on this 
subject) chose Vane, who was far from being well-look'd, and Sedley, who was so 
ugly that Charles II. said — his brother had her by way of penance." M.] 


much study, and had been obliged to keep more than 1749. 
the nine years of Horace, should be revised and altered a?}^ 
at the pleasure of an actor. Yet Garrick knew well. 40. 
that without some alterations it would not be fit for 
the stage. A violent dispute having ensued betwe< n 
them, Garrick applied to the Reverend Dr. Taylor to 
interpose. Johnson was at first very obstinate. Sir. 
(said he) the fellow wants me to make Mahonu l run 
mad, that he may have an opportunity of tossing his 
hands and kicking his heels." 7 He was, however, at 
last, with difficulty, prevailed on to comply with Gar- 
rick's wishes, so as to allow of some changes ; but still 
there were not enough. 

Dr. Adams was present the first night of the repre- 
sentation of Irene, and gave me the following ac- 
count : " Before the curtain drew up, there were cat- 
calls whistling, which alarmed Johnson's friends. The 
Prologue, which was written by himself in a manly 
strain, soothed the audience, 8 and the play went ofl 
tolerablv, till it came to the conclusion, when Mrs. 
Pritchard, the Heroine of the piece, was to be strangled 
upon the stage, and was to speak two lines with the bow 
string round her neck. The audience cried out " Mur- 
der ! Murder /" 9 She several times attempted to speak ; 
but in vain. At last she was obliged to 2-0 offthe stage 

' Mahomet was in fact played by Mr. Barry, and Demetrius by Mr. Garrick 
but probably at this time the parts were not yet cast. 

* The expression used by Dr. Adams was " soothed." I should rather think the 
tudience was aived by the extraordinary spirit and dignity of the following lines : 
" Be this at least his praise, be tins his pride, . 
" To force applause no modern arts are tried : 
" Should partial catcalls all his hopes confound, 
" He bids no trumpet quell the fatal sound ; 
" Should welcome sleep relieve the weary wit, 
" He rolls no thunders o'er the drowsy pit ; 
" No snares to captivate the judgement spreads, 
" Nor bribes your eyes to prejudice your heads. 
" Unmov'd, though witlings sneer and rivals rail, 
" Studious to please, yet not asham'd to fail, 
" He scorns the meek address, the suppliant strait*. 
" With merit needless, and without it vain ; 
" In Reason, Nature, Truth, he dares to trust ; 
" Ye fops be silent, and ye wits be just ! 

v [This shews, how ready modern audiences are to condemn in a new play 
they have frequently endured very quietly in an old one. Rowe has made Monc- 
ses in Tamerlane die by the bow-string, without offence. M.] 

158 THE LIFE Ot 

1749. alive." This passage was afterwards struck out, and 

gfa^ sne was carr i e( l °il to ' 3e put to death behind the 
40. scenes, as the play now has it. The Epilogue, as John- 
son informed me, was written by Sir William Yonge. 
I know not how his play came to be thus graced by the 
pen of a person then so eminent in the political world. 
Notwithstanding all the support of such performers as 
Garrick, Barry, Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Pritchard, and eve- 
ry advantage of dress and decoration, the tragedy of 
Irene did not please the publick. 1 Mr. Garrick's zeal 
carried it through for nine nights, so that the authour 
had his three nights' profits ; and from a receipt signed 
by him, now in the hands of Mr. James Dodsley, it ap- 
pears that his friend, Mr. Jtiobert Dodsley, gave him 
one hundred pounds for the copy, with his usual reser- 
vation of the right of one edition. 

Irene, considered as a poem, is entitled to the praise 
of superiour excellence. Analysed into parts, it will 
furnish a rich store of noble sentiments, fine imagery, 
and beautiful language ; but it is deficient in pathos, 
in that delicate power of touching the human feelings, 
which is the principal end of the drama. 2 Indeed 
Garrick has complained to me, that Johnson not only 
had not the faculty of producing the impressions of 
tragedy, but that he had not the sensibility to perceive 
them. His great friend Mr. Walmsley's prediction, 
that he would " turn out a fine tragedy-writer," was, 
therefore, ill-founded. Johnson was wise enough to 
be convinced that he had not the talents necessary to 

1 [I know not what Sir John Hawkins means by the cold reception of Irlxe. 
[See note, p. 164]. I was at the first representation, and most of the subsequent-. 
It was much applauded the first night, particularly the speech on to-morrow. It 
ran nine nights at least. It did not indeed become a stock-play, but there was 
not the least opposition during the representation, except the first night in the last 
act, where Irene was to be strangled on the stage, which John could not bear, 
though a dramatick poet may stab or slay by hundreds. The bow-string was not 
a Christian nor an ancient Greek or Roman death. But this offence was remov- 
ed after the first night, and Irene went off the stage to be strangled. — Many sto- 
ries were circulated at the time of the authour's being observed at the representa- 
tion to be dissatisfied with some of the speeches and conduct of the play, himself ; 
and, like la Fontaine, expressing his disapprobation aloud. B.] 

2 Aaron Hill (Vol. II. p. 355,) in a letter to Mr. Mallet, gives the following ac- 
count of Irene after having seen it : " I was at the anomalous Mr. Johnson's ben- 
efit, and found the play his proper representative ; strong sense ungraced by 
sweetness or decorum." 


write successfully for the Stage, and never made another 1749. 
attempt in that species of composition. xw 

When asked how he felt upon the ill success of his 40. 
tragedy, he replied, " Like the Monument ;" meaning 
that he continued firm and unmoved as that column. 
And let it be remembered, as an admonition to the ge- 
ms irritabile of dramatick writers, that this great man, 
instead of peevishly complaining of the bad taste of the 
town, submitted to its decision without a murmur. He 
had, indeed, upon all occasions a great deference for 
the general opinion : " A man (said he) who writes a 
book, thinks himself wiser or wittier than the rest of 
mankind ; he supposes that he can instruct or amuse 
them, and the publick to whom he appeals, must, after 
all, be the judges of his pretensions." 

On occasion of this play being brought upon the 
stage, Johnson had a fancy that as a dramatick authour 
his dress should be more gay than what he ordinarily 
wore ; he therefore appeared behind the scenes, and 
even in one of the side boxes, in a scarlet waistcoat, 
with rich gold lace, and a gold-laced hat. He humour- 
ously observed to Mr. Langton, " that when in that 
dress he could not treat people with the same ease as 
when in his usual plain clothes." Dress indeed, we 
must allow has more effect even upon strong minds 
than one should suppose, without having had the ex- 
perience of it. His necessary attendance while his 
play was in rehearsal, and during its performance, 
brought him acquainted with many of the performers 
of both sexes, which produced a more favourable opin- 
ion of their profession than he had harshly expressed in 
his Life of Savage. With some of them he kept up an 
acquaintance as long as he and they lived, and was 
ever ready to shew them acts of kindness. He for a 
considerable time used to frequent the Green-Ruum, 
and seemed to take delight in dissipating his gloom, by 
mixing in the sprightly chit-chat of the motley circle 
then to be found there. Mr. David Hume related to 
me from Mr. Garrick, that Johnson at last denied him- 
self this amusement, from considerations of rigid vir- 
tue ; saving, " V\\ come no more behind your scenes, 

160 THE LIFE 01< 

1750. David ; for the silk stockings and white bosoms of your 
^^ actresses excite my amorous propensities." 
41. In 1750 he came forth in the character for which he 
was eminently qualified, a majestick teacher of moral 
and religious wisdom. The vehicle which he chose 
was that of a periodical paper, which he knew had been, 
upon former occasions, employed with great success. 
The Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, were the last of 
the kind published in England, which had stood the 
test of a long trial ; and such an interval had now 
elapsed since their publication, as made him justly 
think that, to many of his readers, this form of instruc- 
tion would, in some degree, have the advantage of nov- 
elty. A few days before the first of his Essays came 
out, there started another competitor for fame in the 
same form, under the title of " The Tatler Revived," 
which I believe was " born but to die." Johnson was, 
I think, not very happy in the choice of his title, — 
" The Rambler ;" which certainly is not suited to a 
series of grave and moral discourses ; which the Italians 
have literally, but ludicrously, translated by // Vuga- 
bondo ; and which has been lately assumed as the de- 
nomination of a vehicle of licentious tales, "The Ramb- 
ler's Magazine." He gave Sir Joshua Reynolds the 
following account of its getting this name : " What 
must be done, Sir, will be done. When 1 was to begin 
publishing that paper, 1 was at a loss how to name it. 
I sat down at night upon my bedside, and resolved that 
I would not go to sleep till I had fixed its title. The 
Rambler seemed the best that occurred, and 1 took it." 3 
With what devout and conscientious sentiments this 
paper was undertaken, is evidenced by the following 
prayer, which he composed and offered up on the oc- 
casion : " Almighty God, the giver of all good things, 

' I have heard Dr. Warton mention, that he was at Mr. Robert Dodsley's with 
the late Mr. Moore, and several of his friends, considering what should be the 
name of the periodical paper which Moore had undertaken. Garrick proposed 
the Saliad, which, by a curious coincidence, was afterwards applied to himself by 
Goldsmith : 

" Our Garrick's a saliad, for in him we see 
" Oil, vinegar, sugar, and saltness agree ! " 
At last, the company having separated, without any thing of which they approved 
haying been offered, Dodsley himself thought of The W$rld. 


without whose help all labour is ineffectual, and with- *750. 

out whose grace all wisdom is folly : grant, 1 beseeeh ^^ 
Thee, that in this undertaking thy Holy Spirit may not 41. 
be with-held from me, but that I may promote thy 
glory, and the salvation of myself and others : grant 
this, O Lord, for the sake of thy son, Jesus Christ. 

The first paper of the Rambler was published on 
Tuesday the 20th of March, 1749-jO ; and its authour 
was enabled to continue it, without interruption, every 
Tuesday and Saturday, till Saturday the 17th of March, 6 
17*32, on which day it closed. This is a strong- con- 
firmation of the truth of a remark of his, which I have 
had occasion to quote elsewhere, 7 that "a man may 
write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to 
it ;" for, notwithstanding his constitutional indolence, 
his depression of spirits, and his labour in carrying on 
his Dictionary, he answered the stated calls of the 
press twice a week from the stores of his mind, during 
all that time; having received no assistance, except 
four billets in No. 10, by Miss Mulso, now Mrs. Cha- 
pone ; No. :30, by Mrs. Catharine Talbot ; No. 97, by 
Mr. Samuel Richardson, whom he describes in an in- 
troductory note as " x\n authour who has enlarged the 
knowledge of human nature and taught the pas- 
sions to move at the command of virtue ;" and Num- 
bers 4-1 and 100, bv Mrs. Elizabeth Carter. 

Posterity will be astonished when they are told, up- 
on the authority of Johnson himself, that many of 
these discourses, which we should suppose had been 
laboured with all the slow attention of literary leisure, 
were written in haste as the moment pressed, without 
even being read over by him before they were printed. 

It can be accounted for only in this way ; that by 

4 Prayers and Atfeditations, p. 9. 

6 [This is a mistake, into which the authour was very pardonably led by the in- 
accuracy of the original folio edition of the Rambler, in which the concluding pa- 
per of that work is dated on " Saturday, March 17." But Saturday was in fact 
the fourteenth of March. This circumstance, though it may at first appear of very 
little importance, is yet worth notice ; for Mrs. Johnson died on the twcnttentb ol 
March. M.] 

7 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides 3d edit. p. 28 

VOh. T. 21 


1750. reading and meditation, and a very close inspection of 
j^2h life, he had accumulated a great fund of miscellaneous 
41. knowledge, which, by a peculiar promptitude of mind, 
was ever ready at his call, and which he had constantly 
accustomed himself to clothe in the most apt and en- 
ergetick expression. Sir Joshua Reynolds once asked 
him by what means he had attained his extraordinary 
, accuracy and flow of language. He told him, that he 
had early laid it down as a fixed rule to do his best on 
every occasion, and in every company : to impart 
whatever he knew in the most forcible language he 
could put it in ; and that by constant practice, and 
never suffering any careless expressions to escape him, 
or attempting to deliver his thoughts without arranging 
them in the clearest manner, it became habitual to him. 8 
Yet he was not altogether unprepared as a periodical 
writer ; for I have in my possession a small duodecimo 
volume, in which he has written, in the form of Mr. 
Locke's Common-Place Book, a variety of hints for 
essays on different subjects. He has marked upon the 
first blank leaf of it, " To the 128th page, collections 
for the Rambler ;" and in another place, " In fifty-two 
there were seventeen provided; in 97 — 21 ; in 190 — 25." 
At a subsequent period (probably after the work was 
finished) he added, " In all, taken of provided mate- 
rials, 30." 

Sir John Hawkins, who is unlucky upon all occa- 
sions, tells us, that " this method of accumulating in- 
telligence had been practised by Mr. Addison, and is 
humourously described in one of the Spectators, 
wherein he feigns to have dropped his paper of notanda, 
consisting of a diverting medley of broken sentences and 
loose hints, which he tells us he had collected, and 
meant to make use of. Much of the same kind is 
Johnson's Adversaria." 9 But the truth is, that there is 
no resemblance at all between them. Addison's note 

8 [The rule which Dr. Johnson observed, is sanctioned by the authority of two 
great writers of antiquity : " Ne id quidem tacendum est, quod eidem Ciceroni pla- 
cuit, nullum nostrum usqusm negligentem esse sermonem : guicquid ioquemur, ubicun- 
que, sit fro sua scilktt fordone perfectum." Quinctil. X. 7. M.] 

9 Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 268. 



r^. 1 

was a fiction, in which unconnected fragments of his 1750 
lucubrations were purposely jumbled together, in as ^^ 
odd a manner as he could, in order to produce a laugh- 41. 
able effect. Whereas Johnson's abbreviations are all 
distinct, and applicable to each subject of which the 
head is mentioned. 

For instance, there is the following specimen : 

Youth's Entry, §c. 

" Baxter's account of things in which he had chang- 
ed his mind as he grew up. Voluminous. — -No won- 
der. — If every man was to tell, or mark, on how many 
subjects he has changed, it would make vols, but the 
changes not always observed by man's self. — From 
pleasure to bus. [business] to quiet ; from thoughtful- 
ness to reflect, to piety ; from dissipation to domestic, 
by impercept. gradat. but the change is certain. Dial 
non progredi, progress, esse conspicimus. Look back, 
consider what was thought at some dist. period. 

" Hope predoru. in youth. Mind not willingly indulges 
unpleasing thoughts. The world lies all enamelled be- 
fore him, as a distant prospect sun-gilt ; ' — inequalities 
only found by coming to it. Love is to be all joy — 
children excellent — Fame to be constant — caresses of 
the great — applauses of the learned — smiles of Beauty. 

" Fear of disgrace — Baslifulness — Finds things of 
less importance. Miscarriages forgot like excellencies ; 
— if remembered, of no import. Danger of sinking 
into negligence of reputation ; — lest the fear of disgrace 
destroy activity. 

" Confidence in himself. Long tract of life before 
him. — No thought of sickness. — Embarrassment of af- 
fairs. — Distraction of family. Publick calamities. — No 
sense of the prevalence of bad habits. Negligent of 
time — ready to undertake — careless to pursue — all 
changed by time. 

" Confident of others — unsuspecting as unexperi- 
enced — imagining himself secure against neglect, never 
imagines they will venture to treat him ill. Beady to 

1 This most beautiful image of the enchanting delusion of youthful prospect has 
not been used in any of Johnson's essays. 

164 THE LIFE Of 

1750. trust ; expecting to be trusted. Convinced by time of 
jT^ the selfishness, the meanness, the cowardice, the treach- 
41. ' eiy of men. 

" Youth ambitious, as thinking honours easy to be 

" Different kinds of praise pursued at different peri- 
ods. Of the gay in youth. — dang, hurt, &c. despised. 

" Of the fancy in manhood. Ambit.— stocks — bar- 
gains. — Of the wise and sober in old age — seriousness 
— formality — maxims, but general — only of the rich, 
otherwise age is happy — but at last every thing referred 
to riches — no having fame, honour, influence, without 
subjection to caprice. 

" Horace. 

" Hard it would be if men entered life with the same 
views with which they leave it, or left as they enter it. — 
No hope — no undertaking — no regard to benevolence — 
no fear of disgrace, &c. 

" Youth to be taught the piety of age — age to retain 
the honour of vouth." 

This, it will be observed, is the sketch of Number 
196 of the Rambler. I shall gratify my readers with 
another specimen : 

" Confederacies difficult ; why. 

" Seldom in war a match for single persons — nor in 
peace ; therefore kings make themselves absolute. 
Confederacies in learning — every great work the work 
of one. Bruy. Scholars' friendship like ladies. Scri- 
be! lamus, &c. Mart.* The apple of discord — the laurel 
of discord — the poverty of criticism. Swift's opinion of 
the power of six geniuses united. That union scarce 
possible. His remarks just ; — man a social, not steady 
nature. Drawn to man by words, repelled by passions. 
Orb drawn by attraction, rep. \repel/ed~\ by centrifugal. 

" Common danger unites by crushing other passions 
— but they return. Equality hinders compliance. Su- 
periority produces insolence and envy. Too much re- 
gard in each to private interest ; — too little. 

[Lib. xii. 96. " In Tuccam smulum omnium suorum studiorum." M.] 


" The mischiefs of private and exclusive societies — 1750. 
The fitness of social attraction diffused through the JjJ££ 
whole. The mischiefs of too partial love of our coun- 41. 
try. Contraction of moral duties. — -Oi <piKa, a p^o,-. 

" Every man moves upon his own center, and there- 
fore repels others from too near a contact, though he 
may comply with some general laws. 

" Of confederacy with superiors every one knows the 
inconvenience. With equals, no authority ; — every 
man his own opinion — his own interest. 

" Man and wife hardly united ; — scarce ever without 
children. Computation, if two to one against two, 
how many against five ? If confederacies were easy — 
useless ; — many oppresses many. — If possible only to 
some, dangerous. Principum amicitias" 

Here we see the embrvo of Number \5 of the Ad- 
venturer ; and it is a confirmation of what I shall pres- 
ently have occasion to mention, that the papers in that 
collection marked T. were written by Johnson. 

This scanty preparation of materials will not, howev- 
er, much diminish our wonder at the extraordinary fer- 
tility of his mind ; for the proportion which they bear 
to the number of essays which he wrote, is very small ; 
and it is remarkable, that those for which he had made 
no preparation, are as rich and as highly finished, as 
those for which the hints were lying by him. it is also 
to be observed, that the papers formed from his hints 
are worked up with such strength and elegance, that 
we almost lose sight of the hfnts, which become like 
" drops in the bucket." Indeed, in several instances, 
he has made a very slender use of them, so that many 
of them remain still unapplied. 2 

2 Sir John Hawkins has selected from this little collection of materials, what h? 
alls the " Rudiments of two of the papers of the Rambler." But he has not been 
able to read the manuscript distinctly. Thus he writes, p. 266, " Sailor's fate any 
mansion ;" whereas the original is " Sailor's life my aversion." He has also trans- 
cribed the unappropriated hints on Writers for bread, in which he decyphers these 
notable passages, one in Ldtin, fitui nonfama instead of fzmi nonfima ; Johnson hav- 
ing in his mind what Thuanus says of the learned German antiquary and linguist. 
Xylander, who, he tells us, lived in such poverty, that he was supposedy^**;' nonfima: 
icribcre ; and another in French, Degente de fate et ajfame d'argent, instead of Dcgoutt 
de fame, (an old word for renommee) et affame d'argent. The manuscript being writ- 
ten in an exceedingly small hand, is indeed very hard to read ; but it would have 
be -'i better to have left blanks than to write nonsense. 


1750. A s the Rambler was entirely the work of one man, 
Mua. there was, of course, such a uniformity in its texture, as 
41. very much to exclude the charm of variety ; and the 
grave and often solemn cast of thinking, which distin- 
guished it from other periodical papers, made it, for 
some time, not generally liked. So slowly did this ex- 
cellent work, of which twelve editions have now issued 
from the press, gain upon the world at large, that even 
in the closing number the authour says, " I have never 
been much a favourite of the publick." 3 

Yet, very soon after its commencement, there were 
who felt and acknowledged its uncommon excellence. 
Verses in its praise appeared in the newspapers ; and 
the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine mentions, in 
October, his having received several letters to the same 
purpose from the learned. " The Student, or Oxford 
and Cambridge Miscellany," in which Mr. Bonnei 
Thornton and Mr. Colinan were the principal writers, 
describes it as " a work that exceeds any thing of the 
kind ever published in this kingdom, some of the Spec- 
tators excepted, — if indeed they may be excepted." 

3 [The Ramblers certainly were little noticed at first. Smart, the poet, first men- 
tioned them to me as excellent papers, before I had heard any one else speak of 
them. When I went into Norfolk, in the autumn of 1751, I found but one person, 
(the Rev. Mr. Squires, a man of learning, and a general purchaser of new books,) 
who knew any thing of them. But he had been misinformed concerning the true 
authour, for he had been told they were written by a Mr. Johnson of Canterbury, 
the son of a clergyman who had had a controversy with Bentley : and who had 
changed the readings of the old ballad entitled Norton Falgate, in Bentley's bold 
style, (meo perhulo) till not a single word of the original song was left. Before I 
left Norfolk in the year 1760, the Ramblers were in high favour among persons 
of learning and good taste. Others there were, devoid of both, who said that the 
bard ivords in the Rambler were used by the authour to render his Dictionary in- 
dispensably necessary. B.] 

[It may not be improper to correct a slight errour in the preceding note, though 
it does not at all affect the principal object of Dr. Burney's remark. The clergy- 
man above alluded to, was Mr. Richard Johnson, Schoolmaster at Nottingham, 
who in 1717 published an octavo volume in Latin, against Bentley's edition of 
Horace, entitled Aristarchus Anti-Bentleianus. In the middle of this Latin 
work (as Mr. Bindley observes to me,) he has introduced four pages of English crit- 
icism, in which he ludicrously corrects, in Bentley's manner, one stanza, not of the 
ballad the hero of which lived in Norton Falgate, but of a ballad celebrating the 
achievements of Tom Bostock ; who in a sea-fight performed prodigies of valour. 
The stanza, on which tins ingenious writer has exercised his wit, is as follows : 

" Then old Tom Bostock he fell to the work, 

" He pray'd like a Christian, but fought like a Turk. 

" And cut 'em off all in a jerk, 

" Which nobody can deny," &c. M.] 


.And afterwards, " May the puhlick favours crown his 1750. 
merits, and may not the English, under the auspicious £Q£ 
reig-n of George the Second, neglect a man, who, had 4]. " 
he Jived in the first century would have been one of 
the greatest favourites of Augustus." This flattery of 
the monarch had no effect, it is too well known, that 
the second George never was an Augustus to learning 
or genius. 

Johnson told me, with an amiable fondness, a little 
pleasing circumstance relative to this work. Mrs. 
Johnson, in whose judgement and taste he had great 
confidence, said to him, after a few numbers of the 
Rambler had come out, " 1 thought very well of you 
before ; but I did not imagine you could have written 
any thing equal to this." Distant praise, from whatev- 
er quarter, is not so delightful as that of a wife whom 
a man loves and esteems. Her approbation may be 
said to " come home to his bosom ;" and being so near, 
its effect is most sensible and permanent. 

Mr. James Elphinston, who has since published va- 
rious works, and who was ever esteemed by Johnson as 
a worthy man, happened to be hi Scotland while the 
Rambler was coming out in single papers at London. 
With a laudable zeal at once for the improvement of 
his countrymen, and the reputation of his friend, he 
suggested and took the charge of an edition of those 
Essays at Edinburgh, which followed progressively the 
London publication.* 

The following letter written at this time, though not 
dated, will show how much pleased Johnson was with 
this publication, and what kindness and regard he had 
for Mr. Elphinston. 


"dear sir, [No date.'] 

" I cannot but confess the failures of my corres- 
pondence, but hope the same regard which you express 

•» It was executed in the printing-office of Sands, Murray, and Cochranj with un- 
t'ommon elegance, upon writing- paper, of a duodecimo size, and with the greatest 
correctness : and Mr. Elphinston enriched it with translations of the mottos. When 
completed, it made eight handsome volumes. It is, unquestionably, the most accu- 
rate and beautiful edition of this work ; and there being bnr 3 small impres^on 1 
is now becoaie scarce, and sells at a verv Uijjb. price. 


1750. forme on every other occasion, will incline you toioi- 

iEt-T &* ve me * ^ am °^ ten ' ver y °ft en ? M 5 anc l» when I am 
4], 'well, am obliged to work: and, indeed, have never 
much used myself to punctuality. You are, however, 
not to make unkind inferences, when I forbear to reply 
to your kindness ; for be assured, I never receive a let- 
ter from you without great pleasure, and a very warm 
sense of your generosity and friendship, which 1 hearti- 
ly blame myself for not cultivating with more care. In 
this, as in many other cases, I go wrong, in opposition 
to conviction ; for I think scarce any temporal good 
equally to be desired with the regard and familiarity of 
worthy men. I hope we shall be some time nearer to 
each other, and have a more ready way of pouring out 
our hearts. 

" I am glad that you still find encouragement to pro- 
ceed in your publication, and shall beg the favour of six 
more volumes to add to my former six, when you can, 
with any convenience, send them me. Please to pre- 
sent a set, in my name, to Mr. Ruddiman.,* of whom, I 
hjar, that his learning is not his highest excellence. I 
nave transcribed the mottos, and returned them, I hope 
not too late, of \vhich I think many very happily per 
formed. Mr. Cave has put the last in the magazine 
in wbioh I think he did well. 1 beg of you to write 
soon, and to write often, and to write long letters, 
which 1 hope in time to repay you ; but you must be a 
patient creditor. 1 have, however, this of gratitude, 
tnat I think of you with regard, when I do not, per- 
haps, give the proofs which 1 ought, of being, Sir, 

" Your most obliged and 

" Most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

6 Mr. Thomas Ruddiman, the learned grammarian of Scotland, well known for 
his various excellent works, and for his accurate editions of several authours. He 
was also a man of a most worthy private character. His zeal for the Royal House 
of Stuart did not render him less estimable in Dr. Johnson's eye. 

6 [If the Magazine here referred to be that for October 1752, (See Gent. Mag. 
vol. 22, p. 468,) then this letter belongs to a later period. If it relates to the Mag- 
azine for Sept. 1750, (See Gent. Mag. vol. 20. p. 406,) then it may be ascribed to 
the month of October in that vear, and should have followed the subsequent letter. 




This year he wrote to the same gentleman another 1750, 
tetter upon a mournful occasion. jEtat" 




dear SIR, " September 25, 17^0. 

" You have, as 1 find by every kind of evidence, 
lost an excellent mother ; and 1 hope you will not 
think me incapable of partaking- of your grief. I have 
a mother, now eighty-two years of age, whom, there- 
fore, 1 must soon lose, unless it please God that she 
should rather mourn for me. I read the letters in 
which vou relate your mother's death to Mrs. Strahan, 
and 1 think L do myself honour, when 1 tell you that I 
read them with tears ; but tears are neither to you nor 
to me of any further use, when once the tribute of na- 
ture has been paid. The business of life summons us 
away from useless grief, and calls us to the exercise of 
those virtues of which we are lamenting our depriva- 
tion. The greatest benefit which one friend can con- 
fer upon another, is to guard, and excite, and elevate, 
his virtues. This your mother will still perform, if y a 
diligently preserve the memory of her life, and of her 
death : a life, so far as 1 can learn, useful, wise, and in- 
nocent ; and a death resigned, peaceful, and holy. I 
cannot forbear to mention, that neither reason nor rev- 
elation denies you to hope, that you may increase her 
happiness by obeying her precepts ; and that she may, 
in her present state, look with pleasure upon every act 
of virtue to which her instructions or example have 

contributed. Whether this be more than a pleasing 

1 . . . . . . r ° 

dream, or a just opinion ot separate spirits, is, indeed, 

of no great importance to us, when we consider our- 
selves as acting under the eve of God : yet, surelv, 
there is something pleasing in the belief, that our sepa- 
ration from those whom we love is merely corporeal ; 
and it maybe a great incitement to virtuous friendship, 
if it can be made probable, that that union that has re- 
ceived the divine approbation shall continue to eternity. 
■• There is one expedient by which you may, in some 
degree, continue her presence. If you writedown mi- 
nutely what you remember of her from your earliest 

VOL. I. 


I750. years, you will read it with great pleasure, and receive 
/£^ from it many hints of soothing recollection, when time 
41. ' shall remove her yet farther from you, and your grief 
shall be matured to veneration. To this, however pain- 
ful for the present, 1 cannot but advise you, as to a 
source of comfort and satisfaction in the time to come ; 
for all comfort and all satisfaction is sincerely wished 
you by, dear Sir, 

" Your most obliged, most obedient, 

" And most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

The Rambler has increased in fame as in age. Soon 
after its first folio edition was concluded, it was publish- 
ed in six duodecimo volumes; 7 and its authour lived 
to see ten numerous editions of it in London, beside 
those of Ireland and Scotland. 

i profess myself to have ever entertained a profound 
veneration for the astonishing force and vivacity of 
mind, which the Rambler exhibits. That Johnson had 
penetration enough to see, and seeing would not dis- 
guise the general misery of man in this state of being, 
may have given rise to the superficial notion of his be- 
ing too stern a philosopher. But men of reflection will 
be sensible that he has given a true representation of 
human existence, and that he has, at the same time, 
with a generous benevolence displayed every consola- 
tion which our state affords us ; not only those arising 
from the hopes of futurity, but such as may be attained 
in the immediate progress through lite. He has not 
depressed the soul to despondency and indifference. 
He has every where inculcated study, labour, and ex- 

" [This Js not quite accurate. In the Gent. Mag. for Nov. 1751, while the work 
was yet proceeding, is an advertisement, announcing that four volumes of the Ram- 
bler would speedily be published ; and it is believed that they were published in the 
next month. The fifth and sixth volumes, with tables of contents and translations 
ofthemottos, were published in July 1752, by Payne, (the original publisher,) 
three months after the close of the work. 

When the Rambler was collected into volumes, Johnson revised and corrected it 
;hroughout. The original octavo edition not having fallen into Mr. Boswell's hands, 
he was not aware of this circumstance, which has lately been pointed out by 
Mr. Alexander Chalmers in a new edition of these and various other periodica' 
Essays, under the title of the British Essayists. M.] 


ertion. Nay, he has shewn, in a very odious light, a 1750. 
man whose practice is to go about darkening the views ^^ 
of others, by perpetual complaints of evil, and awaken- 41. 
ing those considerations of danger and distress, which 
are, for ihe most part, lulled into a quiet oblivion. 
This he has done very strongly in his character of Sus- 
pirius, 8 from which Goldsmith took that of Croaker, in 
his comedy of "The Good-natured .Man." as Johnson 
told me he acknowledged to him, and which is, indeed. 
very obvious. 

To point out the numerous subjects which the Ram- 
bler treats, with a dignity and perspicuity which are 
there united in a manner winch we shall in vain look 
for any where else, would take up too large a portion of 
my book, and would, 1 trust, be superfluous, consider- 
ing how universally those volumes are now disseminat- 
ed. Even the most condensed and brilliant sentences 
which they contain, and which have very properly been 
selected underthe name of " Be a rxiES," 9 are of consid- 
erable bulk. But I may shortly observe, that the Ram- 
bier furnishes such an assemblage of discourses on 
practical religion and moral duty, of critical investiga- 
tions, and allegorical and oriental tales, that no mind 
can be thought very deficient that has, by constant stu- 
dy and meditation, assimilated to itself all that may be 
found there. No. 7, written in Passion-week on ab- 
straction and self-examination, and No. 110, on peni- 
tence and the placability of the Divine Nature, cannot 
be too often read. No. 54, on the effect which the 
death of a friend should have upon us, though rather 
too dispiriting, may be occasionally very medicinal to the 
mind. Every one must suppose the writer to have 
been deeply impressed by a real scene ; but he told me 
that was not the case ; which shews how well his fan- 
cy could conduct him to the " house of mourning." 

8 No. 55. 

v Dr. Johnson was gratified by seeing this selection, and wrote to Mr. Kearslcy, 
bookseller in Fleet-street, the following note : 

" Mr. Johnson sends compliments to Mr. Kearsley,and bes^s the favour of seeing 
him as soon as he can. Air. Kearsley is desired to bring with him the last edition 
of what he has honoured with the name of Beauties." 
" May 20, 1782." 


1750. Some of these more solemn papers, I doubt not, partic- 
2^ ularly attracted the notice of Dr. Young, the authour 
41. of" The Night Thoughts," of whom my estimation is 
such, as to reckon his applause an honour even to John- 
son. I have seen volumes of Dr. Young's copy of 
the Rambler, in which he has marked the passages 
which he thought particularly excellent, by folding- 
down a corner of the page ; and such as he rated in a 
super-eminent degree, are marked by double folds. I 
am sorry that some of the volumes are lost. Johnson 
was pleased when told of the minute attention with 
which \oung had signified his approbation of his Es- 

I will venture to say, that in no writings whatever 
can be found more bark and steel for the mind, if I may 
use the expression ; more that can brace and invigorate 
every manly and noble sentiment. No. 32 on pa- 
tience, even under extreme misery, is wonderfully 
lofty, and as much above the rant of stoicism, as the 
Sun of Revelation is brighter than the twilight of Pa- 
gan philosophy. I never read the following sentence 
without feeling my frame thrill : " 1 think there is 
some reason for questioning whether the body and 
mind are not so proportioned, that the one can bear all 
which can be inflicted on the other ; whether virtue 
cannot stand its ground as long as life, and whether a 
soul well principled will not be sooner separated than 

Though instruction be the predominant purpose of 
the Rambler, yet it is enlivened with a considerable 
portion of amusement. Nothing can be more errone- 
nous than the notion which some persons have enter- 
tained, that Johnson was then a retired authour, igno- 
rant of the world ; and, of consequence, that he wrote 
only from his imagination, when he described charac- 
ters and manners. He said to me, that before he wrote 
that work, he had been " running about the world," as 
he expressed it, more than almost any body ; and I 
have heard him relate, with much satisfaction, that 
several of the characters in the Rambler were drawn 
so naturally, that when it first circulated in numbers, a 


club in one of the towns in Essex imagined themselves 1750. 
to be severally exhibited in it, and were much incensed J^^ 
against a person who, they suspected, had thus made 41. 
them objects of publick notice ; nor were they quieted 
till authentick assurance was given them, that the 
Rambler was written by a person who had never heard 
of any one of them. Some of the characters are be- 
lieved to have been actually drawn from the life, par- 
ticularly that of Prospero from Garrick, ' who never en- 
tirely forgave its pointed satire. For instances of fer- 
tility of fancy, and accurate description of real life, I 
appeal to No. 19, a man who wanders from one pro- 
fession to another, with most plausible reasons for every 
change : No. 34, female fastidiousness and timorous re- 
finement : No* 82, a Virtuoso who has collected curi- 
osities : No. 88, petty modes of entertaining a compa- 
ny, and conciliating kindness : No. 182, fortune-hunt- 
ing : No. 194: — 19 j, a tutor's account of the follies of 
his pupil: No. 197 — 198, legacy-hunting: He has 
given a specimen of his nice observation of the mere 
external appearances of life, in the following passage in 
No. 179, against affectation, that frequent and most 
disgusting quality : " He that stands to contemplate 
the crouds that fill the streets of a populous city, will 
see many passengers, whose air and motions it will be 
difficult to behold without contempt and laughter ; but 
if he examine what are the appearances that thus pow- 
erfully excite his risibility, he will find among them 
neither poverty nor disease, nor any involuntary or 
painful defect. The disposition to derision and insult, 
is awakened by the softness of foppery, the swell of in- 
solence, the liveliness of levity, or the solemnity of 
grandeur ; by the sprightly trip, the stately stalk, the 
formal strut, and the lofty mien ; by gestures intended 

1 [That of Gelidus in No. 24, from Professor Colson, (see p. 84 of this vol.) 
and that of Euphues in the same paper, which, with many others, was doubtless 
drawn from the life. Eupiibes, I once thought, might have been intended to rep- 
resent either Lord Chesterfield or Soame Jenyns ; but Mr. Bindley, with more prob- 
ability, thinks, that George Bubb Dodington, who was remarkable for the home- 
liness of his person, and the finery of his dress, was the person meant under thai 
. haracter. M.] 


1750. to catch the eye, and by looks elaborately formed as 

iEtaT evidences of importance." 

41. Every page of the Rambler shews a mind teeming 
with classical allusion and poetical imagery: illustra- 
tions from other writers are, upon all occasions, so 
ready, and mingle so easily in his periods, that the 
whole appears of one uniform vivid texture. 

The style of this work has been censured by some 
shallow criticks as involved and turgid, and abounding 
with antiquated and hard words. So ill-founded is the 
first part of this objection, that I will challenge all who 
may honour this book with a perusal, to point out any 
English writer whose language conveys his meaning 
with equal force and perspicuity. It must, indeed, be 
allowed, that the structure of his sentences is expand- 
ed, and often has somewhat of the inversion of Latin ; 
and that he delighted to express familiar thoughts in 
philosophical language ; being in this the reverse of 
Socrates, who, it is said, reduced philosophy to the sim- 
plicity of common life. But let us attend to what he 
himself says in his concluding paper : " When com- 
mon words were less pleasing to the ear, or less distinct 
in their signification, I have familiarised the terms oi 
philosophy, by applying them to popular ideas." 2 And, 
as to the second part of this objection, upon a late 
careful revision of the work, I can with confidence say, 
that it is amazing how few of those words, for which 
it has been unjustly characterised, are actually to be 
found in it ; 1 air! sure, not the proportion of one to 
each paper. This idle charge has been echoed from 
one babbler to another, who have confounded John- 
son's Essays with Johnson's Dictionary ; and because 
he thought it right in a Lexicon of our language to 
collect many words which had fallen into disuse, but 
were supported by great authorities, it has been im- 
agined that all of these have been interwoven into his 
own compositions. That some of them have been 
adopted by him unnecessarily, may, perhaps, be allow- 
ed ; but, in general they are evidently an advantage, 

2 Yet his style did not escape the harmless shafts of pleasant humour ; for the in- 
genious Bonnell Thornton published a mock Rambler in the Drury-lane Journal. 

DR. JOHNSON. 17 5 

for without them his stately ideas would he confined i/50. 
and cramped. "He that thinks with more extent £^ 
than another, will want words of larger meaning." 3 1 le 41. 
once told me, that he had formed his style upon that 
of Sir William Temple, and upon Chambers's Proposal 
for his Dictionary. 4 - lie certainly was mistaken ; or 
if he imagined at first that he was imitating Temple, he 
was very unsuccessful ; 5 for nothing can be more un- 
like than the simplicity of Temple, and the richness of 
Johnson. Their styles dirler as plain cloth and bro- 
cade. Temple, indeed, seems equally erroneous in 
supposing that he himself had formed his style upon 
Sandys's View of the btate of Religion in the VV r estern 
parts of the World. 

The style of Johnson was, undoubtedly, much form- 
ed upon that of the great writers in the last century, 
Hooker, Bacon, Sanderson, Hake well, and others ; 
those " Giants/' as they were well characterised by a 
great Personage, whose authority, were 1 to name 
him, would stamp a reverence on the opinion. 

We may, with the utmost propriety, apply to his 
learned style that passage of Horace, a part of which 
he has taken as the motto to his Dictionary ; 

:i Cum tabulis animum censoris sumct honesti ; 
" Audebit quoscumque pariun splendoris kabebunt 
u lit sine pondere erunt, et honore indigna J*erem 'ur r 
" Verba movere loco, quamvis invito, recedant, 
" Et versentur adhuc intra penetralia Vestce. 
•• Obscurata din populo bonus cruet, atque 

- Idler, No. 70. 

* [The Paper here alluded to, was, I believe, Chambers's Proposal for a second 
and improved ed'tion of his Dictionary, which, I think, appeared in 1738. This 
Proposal was probably in circulation in 1737, when Johnson first came to Lon- 
don. M.] 

6 [The author appears to me to have misunderstood Johnson in this instance, 
He did not, I conceive, mean to say, that, when he first began to write, he madr 
Sir William Temple his model, with a view to form a style that should resemble 
his in all its parts ; but that he formed his style on that of Temple and others ; by 
taking from each those characteristic excellencies which were most worthy of im- 
itation. — See this matter further explained in vol. ii. under April 9, 1778 ; wherr. 
ui a conversational Sir Joshua Reynolds's, Johnson himself mentions the particu- 
lar improvements which Temple made in the i style. These, doubtless were 
the object* of his imitation, so fa- « that write' model. M." 1 


}U*1' " Proferet in lucem speciosa vocabula rerum, 

'* Quae priscis me mo rat a Catonibus atone Cethegis, 
" Nunc situs in for mis pr emit et desert a vet us t as : 
" Adsciscet nova, quce genitor produxerit usus : 
' Vchemens, et Uquidus, puroque simillimus amni, 
" Fundet opes Latiumque beabit divite lingua" 6 

To so great a master of thinking, to one of such vast 
and various knowledge as Johnson, might have been 
allowed a liberal indulgence of that licence which 
Horace claims in another place : 

■Si forte necesse est 

' Indiciis monstrare recentibus abdita rerum, 
' Fingere cinctutzs non exaudita Cethegis 
' Continget, dabiturque ticentia sumpta pudenfer : 
' Et nova fi eta que nuper habebunt verba /idem, si 
' Grcecojbnte cadaut, parch detorta. Quid autem 
' Ccecilio Plautoque dabit Romanics, ademption 
'• Virgilio Varioque! Ego cur, acquirere pauca 
' Si possum, invideor ; emu lingua Cat outset Enni 
' Sermonem patrium dititverif, et nova rerum 
' Nomina protulerit ! Licuit, semperque Ucebit 
1 Signatuni prcesente not a producere nomen." 7 

Yet Johnson assured me, that he had not taken up- 
on him to add more than four or five words to the 
English language, of his own formation ; and he was 
very much offended at the general licence by no means 
" modestly taken" in his time, not only to coin new- 
words, but to use many words in senses quite different 
from their established meaning, and those frequently 
verv fantastical. 

Sir Thomas Brown, whose Life Johnson wrote, was 
remarkably fond of Anglo-Latin diction ; and to his 
example we are to ascribe .Johnson's sometimes indulg- 
ing himself in this kind of phraseology. 8 Johnson's 

* Horat. Epist. Lib. ii. Epist. ii. 

" Horat. De Arte Poetica. 

3 The observation of his having imitated Sir Thomas Brown has been made by- 
many people ; and lately it has been insisted on, and illustrated by a variety of 

DR. JOHNSON'. 177 

comprehension of mind was the mould for his Ian- *750. 
guage. Had his conceptions been narrower, his ex- feQf 
pression would have been easier. His sentences have 41. 
a dignified march ; and, it is certain, that his example 
has given a general elevation to the language of his 
country, for many of our best writers have approached 
very near to him ; and, from the influence which he 
has had upon our composition, scarcely any thing is 
written now that is not better expressed than was usual 
before he appeared to lead the national taste. 

This circumstance, the truth of which must strike 
every critical reader, has been so happily enforced by 
Mr. Courtenay, in his " Moral and Literary Character 
of Dr. Johnson," that I cannot prevail on myself to 
withhold it, notwithstanding his, perhaps, too great 
partiality for one of his friends : 

" By nature's gifts ordain'd mankind to rule, 
" He, like a Titian, form'd his brilliant school ; 
" And taught congenial spirits to excel, 
" While from his lips impressive wisdom fell. 
" Our boasted Goldsmith felt the sovereign sway ; 
" From him deriv'd the sweet, yet nervous lav. 
" To Fame's proud cliff he bade our Raffaelle rise : 
" Hence Reynolds' pen with Reynolds' pencil vies. 
" With Johnson's flame melodious Burney glows, 
; ' While the grand strain in smoother cadence flows* 
" And you, Malone, to critick learning dear, 
" Correct and elegant, refin'd though clear, 
" By studying him, acquir'd that classick taste, 
" Which high in Shakspeare's fane thy statue p!ac'd> 
" Near Johnson Steevens stands, on scenick ground, 
i: Acute, laborious, fertile, and profound. 
' Ingenious Hawkesworth to this school we owe 3 
" And scarce the pupil from the tutor know. 
" Flere early parts accomplish'd Jones sublimes, 
" And science blends with Asia's lofty rhymes : 

quotations from Brown, in one of the popular Essays written by the Reverend 
Mr. Knox, master of Tunbridge-school, whom I have set down in my list of those 
who have sometimes not unsuccessfully imitated Dr. Johnson's style. 

vol. i. 23 


}1?Z', " Harmonious Jones ! who in his splendid strains 
" Sings Camdeo's sports, on Agra's flowery plains, 
" In Hindu fictions while we fondly trace 
" Love and the Muses, deck'd with Attick grace. 
" Amid these nanies can Boswell be forgot, 
" Scarce by North Britons now esteem'd a Scot?"' 
" Who to the sage devoted from his youth, 
" Imbib'd from him the sacred love of truth ; 
" The keen research, the exercise of mind, 
" And that best art, the art to know mankind. — 
" Nor was his energy confin'd alone 
" To friends around his philosophick throne ; 
" Its influence wide improved our lettered isle, 
4: And lucid vigour marked the general stifle ; 
" As Nile's proud waves, swoln from their oozy bed, 
" First o'er the neighbouring meads majestick spread ; 
" Till gathering force, they more and more expand, 
" And with new virtue fertilise the land." 

Johnson's language, however, must be allowed to be 
too masculine for the delicate gentleness of female 
writing. His ladies, therefore, seem strangely formal, 
even to ridicule ; and are well denominated by the 
nanies which he has gi en them, as Misella, Zozima, 
Properantia, Rhodoclia. 

It has of late been the fashion to compare the style 
of Addison and Johnson, and to depreciate, [ think, 
very unjustly, the style of Addison as nerveless and 
feeble, because it has not the strength and energy of 
that of Johnson. Their prose may be balanced like the 
poetry of Dryden and Pope. Both are excellent, 
though in different ways. Addison writes with the 
ease of a gentleman. His readers fancy that a wise 
and accomplished companion is talking to them ; so 

9 The following observation in Mr. Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides may 
.sufficiently account for that Gentleman's being "now scarcely esteemed a Scot" by 
many of his countrymen : " If he [Dr Johnson] was particularly prejudiced against 
the Scots, it was because they were more in his way ; because he thought their 
success in England rather exceeded the due proportion of their real merit ; and be- 
cause he could not but see in them that nationality which, I believe, no liberal- 
minded Scotchman will deny." Mr. Boswell, indeed, is so free from national prej- 
udices, that he might with equal propriety have been described as — 
" Scarce by South Britons now esteem'd a Scot." 



that he insinuates his sentiments and taste into their i75o. 
minds by an imperceptible influence. Johnson writes j£ tAtt 
like a teacher. He dictates to his readers as if from an 41. 
academical chair. They attend with awe and admira- 
tion ; and his precepts are impressed upon them by his 
commanding' eloquence. Addison's style, like a light 
wine, pleases every body from the first. Johnson's, 
like a liquor of more body, seems too strong- at first, 
but, by degrees, is highly relished ; and such is the 
melody of Ins periods, so much do they captivate the 
ear, and seize upon the attention, that there is scarcely 
any writer, however inconsiderable, who does not aim, 
in some degree, at the same species of excellence. But 
let us not ungratefully undervalue that beautiful style, 
which has pleasingly conveyed to us much instruction 
and entertainment. Though comparatively weak, op- 
posed to Johnson's Herculean vigour, let us not call it 
positively feeble. Let us remember the character of 
his style, as given by Johnson himself: " What he at- 
tempted, he performed ; he is never feeble, and he did 
not wish to be energetick ; he is never rapid, and he 
never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied 
amplitude, nor affected brevity : his periods, though not 
diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. 1 Whoever 
wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, 
and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days 
and nights to the volumes of Addison."* 

Though the Rambler was not concluded till the vear 
17«52, 1 shall, under this year, say all that I have toob- 

1 [When Johnson shewed me a proof-sheet of the character of Addison, in which 
he so highly extols his style, I could not help observing, that it had not been his 
own model, as no two styles could differ more from each other. — " Sir, Addison 
had his style, and I have mine." — When I ventured to ask him, whether the differ- 
ence did not consist in this, that Addison's style was full of idioms, colloquial phra- 
ses, and proverbs ; and his own more strictly grammatical, and free from such 
phraseology and modes of speech as can never be literally translated or understood 
by foreigners ; he allowed the discrimination to be just. — Let any one who doubts 
it, try to translate one of Addison's Spectators into Latin, French, or Italian ; and 
though so easy, familar, and elegant, to an Englishman, as to give the intellect no 
trouble ; yet he would find the transfusion into another language extremely dif- 
ficult, if not impossible. But a Rambler, Adventurer, or Idler, of Johnson, would 
fall into any classical or European language, as easily as if it had been originally 
conceived in it. B.] 

1 1 shall probably, in another work, maintain the merit of Addison's poetry, 
which has been very unjustly depreciated. 


1750. serve upon it. Some of the translations of the mottos 
)£^ by himself, are admirably done. He acknowledges to 
41. " have received " elegant translations" of many of them 
from Mr. James Elphinston ; and some are very hap- 
pily translated by a Mr. F. Lewis, of whom 1 never 
heard more, except that Johnson thus described him 
to Mr. Malone : "Sir, he lived in London, and hung 
loose upon society." 3 The concluding paper of his 
Rambler is at once dignified and pathetick. I cannot, 
however, but wish, that he had not ended it with an 
unnecessary Greek verse, translated* also into an Eng- 
lish couplet. It is too much like the conceit of those 
clramatick poets, who used to conclude each act with 
a rhyme ; and the expression in the first line of his 
couplet, " Celestial powers " though proper in Pagan 
poetry, is ill suited to Christianity, with " a conform- 
ity" to which he consoles himself. How much better 
would it have been, to have ended with the prose sen- 
tence " I shall never envy the honours which wit and 
learning obtain in any other cause, if 1 can be numbered 
among the writers who have given ardour to virtue, and 
confidence to truth." 

His friend, Dr. Birch, being now engaged in prepar- 
ing an edition of Ralegh's smaller pieces, Dr. Johnson 
wrote the following letter to that gentleman : 


" sir, " Gotigh'Sguare, May 12, 17-50, 

" Knowing that you are now preparing to fa- 
vour the publick with a new edition of Ralegh's mis- 
cellaneous pieces, I have taken the liberty to send you 
a Manuscript, which fell by chance within my notice. 
I perceive no proofs of forgery in my examination of it ; 

3 [In the Gentleman's Magazine, for October 1 752, p. 468, he is styled u the 
Rev. Francis Lewis, of Chiswick." Lord Macartney, at my request, made some 
inquiry concerning him at that place, but no intelligence was obtained. 

The translations of the mottos supplied by Mr. Elphinston, appeared first in the 
Edinburgh edition of the Rambler, and in some instances were revised and im- 
proved, probably by Johnson, before they were inserted in the London octavo 
edition. The translations of the mottos affixed to the first thirty numbers of the 
Rambler, were published, from the Edinburgh edition, in the Gent. Mag. for 
September 1 750, before the work was collected into volumes. M.] 

* [Not in the original editions in folio. M.] 


and the owner tells me, that as he has heard, the hand- 1750. 
writing is Sir Walter's. It you should find reason to ^Etat! 
conclude it genuine, it will be a kindness to the owner, 41. 
a blind person, 4 to recommend it to the booksellers. 

I am, Sir, 

" Your most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

His just abhorrence of Milton's political notions was 
ever strong. But this did not prevent his warm admi- 
ration of Milton's great poetical merit, to which he has 
done illustrious justice, beyond all who have written 
upon the subject. And this year he not only wrote a 
Prologue, which was spoken by Mr. Garrick before the 
acting of Comus at Drury-lane theatre, for the benefit 
of Milton's grand-daughter, but took a very zealous in- 
terest in the success of the charity. On the day preced- 
ing the performance, he published the following letter 
in the " General Advertiser," addressed to the printer 
of that paper : 

" SIR. 

" That a certain degree of reputation is acquired 
merely by approving the works of genius, and testify- 
ing a rejrard to the memorv of authours, is a truth too 
evident to be denied ; and therefore to ensure a partici- 
pation of fame with a celebrated poet, many, who 
would, perhaps, have contributed to starve him when 
alive, have heaped expensive pageants upon his grave.* 
" It must, indeed, be confessed, that this method of 
becoming known to posterity with honour, is peculiar 
to the great, or at least to the wealthy ; but an oppor- 
tunity now offers for almost every individual to secure 
the praise of paying a just regard to the illustrious dead, 
united with the pleasure of doing good to the living. 
To assist industrious indigence, struggling with distress 
and debilitated by age, is a display of virtue, and an ac- 
quisition of happiness and honour. 

4 Mrs. Williams is probably the person meant. 
; Alluding probably to Mr. Auditor Benson. See the Dunciad, b. iv. M.T 


1751. " Whoever, then, would be thought capable of pleas- 
^^ ure in reading the works of our incomparable Milton, and 
42. * not so destitute of gratitude as to refuse to lay out a 
trifle in rational and elegant entertainment, for the ben- 
efit of his living remains, for the exercise of their own 
virtue, the increase of their reputation, and the pleas- 
ing consciousness of doing good, should appear at Dru- 
ry-lane theatre to-morrow, April 5, when Comus will 
be performed for the benefit of Mrs. Elizabeth Foster, 
grand-daughter to the authour, 5 and the only surviving 
branch of his family. 

" N. B. There will be a new prologue on the occa- 
sion, written by the authour of Irene, and spoken by 
Mr. Garrick ; and, by particular desire, there will be 
added to the Masque a dramatick satire, called Lethe, 
in which Mr. Garrick will perform." 

In 1731 we are to consider him as carrying on both 
his Dictionary and Rambler. But he also wrote " The 
Life of Cheynel,"* in the miscellany called " The Stu- 
dent;" and the Rev. Dr. Douglas having with uncom- 
mon acuteness clearly detected a gross forgery and im- 
position upon the publick by William Lauder, a Scotch 
schoolmaster, who had, with equal impudence and in- 
genuity, represented Milton as a plagiary from certain 
modern Latin poets, Johnson, who had been so far im- 
posed upon as to furnish a Preface and Postscript to his 
work, now dictated a letter for Lauder, addressed to Dr. 
Douglas, acknowledging his fraud in terms of suitable 
contrition. 6 

This extraordinary attempt of Lauder was no sudden 
effort. He had brooded over it for many years : and to 

s [Mrs. Elizabeth Foster died May 9, 1754. A. C] 

6 Lest there should be any person, at any future period, absurd enough to sus- 
pect that Johnson was a partaker in Lauder's fraud, or had any knowledge of it, 
when he assisted him with his masterly pen, it is proper here to quote the words of 
Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, at the time when he detected the impo- 
sition. " It is to be hoped, nay it is expected, that the elegant and nervous wri- 
ter, whose judicious sentiments and inimitable style point out the authour of Lau- 
der's Preface and Postscript, will no longer allow one to flume himself •with his 
feathers, who appeareth so little to deserve assistance : an assistance which I am 
persuaded would never have been communicated, had there been the least suspi- 
cion of those facts which I have been the instrument of conveying to the world in 
these sheets." Milton no plagiary, 2d edit. p. 78. And his Lordship has been pleas- 
ed now to authorise me to say, in the strongest manner, tliat there is no ground 


this hour it is uncertain what his principal motive was, 1751. 
unless it were a vain notion of his superiority, in being j£^ 
able, by whatever means, to deceive mankind. To ef- 49. 
feet this, he produced certain passages from Grotius, 
Masenius, and others, which had a faint resemblance to 
some parts of the " Paradise Lost." In these he inter- 
polated some fragments of Hog's Latin translation of 
that poem, alleging that the mass thus fabricated was 
the archetype from which Milton copied. These fabri- 
cations he published from time to time in the Gentle- 
man's Magazine ; and, exulting in his fancied success, 
he in l/oO ventured to collect them into a pamphlet, 
entitled, " An Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of 
the Moderns in his Paradise Lost." To this pamphlet 
Johnson wrote a Preface, in full persuasion of Lauder's 
honesty, and a Postscript recommending, in the most 
persuasive terms, a subscription for the relief of a grand- 
daughter of Milton, of whom he thus speaks : " It is 
yet in the power of a great people to reward the poet 
whose name they boast, and from their alliance to 
w r hose genius they claim some kind of superiority to 
every other nation of the earth ; that poet, whose 
works may possibly be read when every other monu- 
ment of British greatness shall be obliterated ; to re- 
ward him, not with pictures or with medals, which, if 
he sees, he sees with contempt, but with tokens of 
gratitude, which he, perhaps, may even now consider 
as not unworthy the regard of an immortal spirit." 
Surely this is inconsistent with " enmity towards Mil- 
ton," which Sir John Hawkins imputes to Johnson 
upon this occasion, adding, " I could all along observe 
that Johnson seemed to approve not only of the design, 
but of the argument ; and seemed to exult in a persua- 
sion, that the reputation of Milton was likely to suffer 

whatever for any unfavourable reflection against Dr. Johnson, who expressed the 
strongest indignation against Lauder. 

[Lauder renewed his attempts on Milton's character in 1 754, in a pamphlet en- 
titled, " The Grand Imposter detected, or Milton convicted of forgery against King 
Charles I. ;" which was reviewed, probably by Johnson, in the Gent. Mag. 1751, 
p. 97. A. C] 

[Lauder afterward* wem to Barbwlocs, where he «Ked Ten' nr^erably abotit thf 
vear 177L M.l 


1751. by this discovery. That he was not privy to the im* 
JStaT P os ture, i am well persuaded ; that he wished well to 
42. * the argument, may be inferred from the Preface, which 
indubitably was written by Johnson." Is it possible 
for any man of clear judgement to suppose that Johnson, 
who so nobly praised the poetical excellence of Milton 
in a Postscript to this very *' discovery," as he then 
supposed it, could, at the same time, exult in a per- 
suasion that the great poet's reputation was likely to 
suffer by it ? This is an inconsistency of which John- 
son was incapable ; nor can any thing more be fairly 
inferred from the Preface, than that Johnson, who was 
alike distinguished for ardent curiosity and love of truth, 
was pleased with an investigation by which both were 
gratified. That he was actuated by these motives, and 
certainly by no unworthy desire to depreciate our great 
epick poet, is evident from his own words ; for, after 
mentioning the general zeal of men of genius and lite- 
rature, " to advance the honour, and distinguish the 
beauties of Paradise Lost," he says, " Among the in- 
quiries to which this ardour of criticism has naturally 
given occasion, none is more obscure in itself, or more 
worthy of rational curiosity, than a retrospect of the 
progress of this mighty genius in the construction of 
his work ; a view of the fabrick gradually rising, per- 
haps, from small beginnings, till its foundation rests in 
the centre, and its turrets sparkle in the skies ; to trace 
back the structure through all its varieties, to the sim- 
plicity of its first plan ; to find what was first projected, 
whence the scheme was taken, how it was improved, 
by what assistance it was executed, and from what 
stores the materials were collected ; whether its foun- 
der dug them from the quarries of Nature, or demol- 
ished other buildings to embellish his own." 7 — Is this 
the language of one who wished to blast the laurels of 
Milton 1 "? 

Though Johnson's circumstances were at this time 
far from being easy, his humane and charitable dispo- 

7 [" Proposals [written evidently by Johnson] for printing the Adamus Exul of 
Grotius, with a translation and Notes by Wm. Lauder, A. M." Gent. Mag. 1747, 
voL 17. p. 404. M.l 


sitiotl was constantly exerting itself. Mrs. Anna Wil- 175-2. 
hams, daughter of a very ingenious Welsh physician, Jj£ att 
and a woman of more than ordinary talents and litera- 43, 
ture, having come to London in hopes of being cured of 
a cataract in both her eyes, which afterwards ended in 
total blindness, was kindly received as a constant visitor 
at his house while Mrs. Johnson lived ; and, after her 
death, having come under his roof in Order to have an 
operation upon her eyes performed with more comfort 
to her than in lodgings, she had an apartment from him 
during the rest of her life, at all times when he had a 

In 1752 he was almost entirely occupied with his 
Dictionary. The last paper of his Rambler was pub- 
lished March 2, 8 this year ; after which, there was a 
cessation for some time of anv exertion of his talents as 
an essayist. But, in the same year, Dr. Hawkesworth, 
who was his warm admirer, and a studious imitator of 
his style, and then lived in great intimacy with him, 
began a periodical paper, entitled, " The Adventur- 
er," in connection with other gentlemen, one of w horn 
Mas Johnson's much-loved friend, Dr. Bathurst ; and, 
without doubt, thev received many valuable hints from 
his conversation, most of his friends having been so as- 
sisted in the course of their works. 

That there should be a suspension of his literary la- 
bours during a part of the year 1?j5, will not seem 
strange, when it is considered that soon after closing 
his Rambler, he suffered a loss which, there can be no 
doubt, aflected him with the deepest distress. For on 
the 17th of March, O. S. his wife died. Why Sir John 
Hawkins should unwarrantably take upon him even to 
suppose that Johnson's fondness for her was dissembled 

2 [Here the author's memory failed him, for, according to the account givea 
in a former page, (see p. 161,) we should here read March 17 ; but in truth, as 
has been already observed, the Rambler closed on Saturday the fourteenth of March ; 
at which time Mrs. Johnson was near her end, for she died on the following Tues- 
day, March 17. Had the concluding paper of that work been written on the day 
of her death, it would have been still more extraordinary than it is, considering 
the extreme grief into which the author was plunged by that event. — The melan- 
choly cast of chat concluding essay is sufficiently accounted for by the situation of 
Mrs. Johnson at the time it was written ; and her death three days afterwards put 
an end to the Paper. M.] 

VOL. T. 


1752. (meaning simulated or assumed,) and to assert, that it 
;g^ it was not the case, " it was a lesson he had learned 
43. by rote," I cannot conceive ; unless it proceeded from 
a want of similar feelings in his own breast. To argue 
from her being much older than Johnson, or any other 
circumstances, that he could not really love her, is ab- 
surd ; for love is not a subject of reasoning, but of 
feeling, and therefore there are no common principles 
upon which one can persuade another concerning it. 
Every man feels for himself, and knows how he is af- 
fected by particular qualities in the person he admires, 
the impressions of which are too minute and delicate 
to be substantiated in language. 

The following very solemn and affecting prayer was 
found after Dr. Johnson's decease, bv his servant, Mr. 
Francis Barber, who delivered it to my worthy friend 
the Reverend Mr. Strahan, Vicar of Islington, who at 
my earnest request has obligingly favoured me with a 
copy of it, which he and 1 compared with the original. 
I present it to the world as an undoubted proof of a 
circumstance in the character of my illustrious friend, 
which, though some whose hard minds I never shall 
envy, may attack as superstitious, will 1 am sure endear 
him more to numbers of good men. 1 have an addi- 
tional, and that a personal motive for presenting it, be- 
cause it sanctions what I myself have always maintain- 
ed and am fond to indulge : 




April 26, 1752, being after 12 at Night of the 25th. 

" O Lord ! Governour of heaven and earth, in 
whose hands are embodied and departed Spirits, if 
thou hast ordained the Souls of the Dead to minister 
to the Living, and appointed my departed Wife to 
have care of me, grant that I may enjoy the good 
effects of her attention and ministration, whether 
exercised by appearance, impulses, dreams, or in any 
other manner agreeable to thy Government. For- 
give my presumption, enlighten my ignorance, and 
however meaner agents are employed, grant me the 
blessed influences of thy holy Spirit, through Jesus 
Christ our Lord. Amen." 


What actually followed upon this most interesting 1752. 
piece of devotion by .Johnson, we are not informed ; ^T^ 
but 1, whom it has pleased God to afflict in a similar 43, 
manner to that which occasioned it, have certain expe- 
rience of benignant communication by dreams. 

That his love for his wife was of the most ardent 
kind, and, during the long period of fifty years, was 
unimpaired by the lapse of time, is evident from various 
passages in the series of his Prayers and Meditations, 
published by the Reverend Mr. Strahan, as well as from 
other memorials, two of which I select, as strongly 
marking the tenderness and sensibility of his mind. 

" March 28, 175:3. 1 kept this day as the anniver- 
sary of my Tetty's death, with prayer and tears in the 
morning. In the evening I prayed for her condition- 
ally, if it were lawful." 

" April 23, 1753. I know not whether I do not too 
much indulge the vain longings of affection ; but I 
hope they intenerate my heart, and that when I die 
like my Tetty, this affection will be acknowledged in a 
happy interview, and that in the mean time I am inci- 
ted by it to piety. I will, however, not deviate too 
much from common and received methods of devotion." 

Her wedding-ring, when she became his wife, was, 
after her death, preserved by him, as long as he lived, 
with an affectionate care, in a little round wooden box, 
in the inside of which he pasted a slip of paper, thus 
inscribed by him in fair characters, as follows : 

" Eheu ! 
" Eliz. Johnson, 
" Nupta Jul. 9° 173.6', 
" iMortua, cheu ! 
" Mart. 17° 1752." 

After his death, Mr. Francis Barber, his faithful ser- 
vant, and residuary legatee, offered this memorial of 
tenderness to Mrs. Lucy Porter, Mrs. Johnson's daugh- 
ter ; but she having declined to accept of it, he had it 
enamelled as a mourning ring for his old master, and 
presented it to his wife, Mrs. Barber, who now has it. 

The state of mind in which a man must be upon the 
death of a woman whom he sincerely loves, had been 


1752. in his contemplation many years before. In his Irene, 
j£tat^ we fi ,K * tne following fervent and tender speech of De- 
43. metrius, addressed to his Aspasia : 

" From those bright regions of eternal day, 

" Where now thou shin'st amongst thy fellow saints, 

" Array'd in purer light, look down on me ! 

" In pleasing visions and assuasive dreams, 

" O ! sooth my soul, and teach me how to lose thee.' 

I have, indeed, been told by Mrs. Desmoulins, who, 
before her marriage, lived for some time with Mrs. John- 
son at Hampstead, that she indulged herself in country 
air and nice living, at an unsuitable expence, while her 
husband was drudging in the smoke of London, and that 
she by no means treated him with that complacency 
which is the most engaging quality in a wife. But all 
this is perfectly compatible with his fondness for her, 
especially when it is remembered that he had a high 
opinion of her understanding, and that the impressions 
which her beauty, real or imaginary, had originally made 
upon his fancy, being continued by habit, had not been 
effaced, though she herself was doubtless much al- 
tered for the worse. The dreadful shock of separation 
took place in the night ; and he immediately dispatched 
a letter to his friend, the Reverend Dr. Taylor, which, 
as Taylor told me, expressed grief in the strongest man- 
ner he had ever read ; so that it is much to be regretted 
it has not been preserved. 9 The letter was brought to 
Dr. Taylor, at his house in the Cloysters, Westminster, 
about three in the morning ; and as it signified an earn- 
est desire to see him, he got up, and went to Johnson 
as soon as he was dressed, and found him in tears and 
in extreme agitation. After being a little while togeth- 
er, Johnson requested him to join with him in prayer. 
He then prayed extempore, as did Dr. Taylor ; and 

s [In the Gentleman's Magazine for February, 1794, (p. 100,) was printed a let- 
ter pretending to be that written by Johnson on the death of his wife. But it is 
merely a transcript of the 41st number of " The Idler." A fictitious date, March 
17, 1751, O. S. was added by some person, previously to this paper's being sent to 
the publisher of that miscellany, to give a colour to this deception. M.] 

DR. JOHNSON. 18°/ 

thus by means of that piety which was ever his primary 1752. 
object, his troubled mind was, in some degree, soothed J^ 
and composed. 43, 

The next day he wrote as follows : 


" Let me have your company and instruction. 
Do not live away from me. My distress is great. 

" Pray desire Mrs. Taylor to inform me what mourn- 
ing 1 should buy for my mother and Miss Porter, and 
bring a note in writing with you. 

" Remember me in your prayers, for vain is the help 
of man. 

" I am, dear Sir, &c. 
" March 18, 1732. " Sam. Johnson. 


That his sufferings upon the death of his wife were 
severe, beyond what are commonly endured, 1 have no 
doubt, from the information of many who were then 
about him, to none of whom 1 give more credit than 
to Mr. Francis Barber, his faithful negro servant, ' who 
came into his familv about a fortnight after the dismal 
event. These sufferings were aggravated by the mel- 
ancholy inherent in his constitution ; and although he 
probably was not oftener in the wrong than she was, in 
the little disagreements which sometimes troubled his 
married state, during which, he owned to me, that the 
gloomy irritability of his existence was more painful to 
him than ever, he might very naturally, after her death, 
be tenderly disposed to charge himself with slight 
omissions and offences, the sense of which would give 

! Francis Barber was born in Jamaica, and was brought to England in 1750 by 
Oolonel Bathurst, father of Johnson's very intimate friend, Dr. Bathurst. He was 
sent, for some time, to the Reverend Mr. Jackson's school, at Barton, in York- 
shire. The Colonel by his will left him his freedom, and Dr. Bathurst was willing 
*hat he should enter into Johnson's service, in which he continued from 1752 till 
Johnson's death, with the exception of two intervals ; in one of which, upon some 
difference with his master, he went and served an apothecary in Cheapside, but 
?till visited Dr. Johnson occasionally ; in another, he took a fancy to go to sea. 
Part of the time, indeed, he was, by the kindness of his master, at a school in Nor th- 
amptonshire, that he might have the advantage of some learning. So early, and 
;o lasting a connection was there between Dr. Johnson and tins humble friend. 


1752. him much uneasiness.* Accordingly we find, about 
JEtaT a y ear a * ter ner decease, that he thus addressed the 
43. Supreme Being: "O Lord, who givest the grace of 
repentance, and nearest the prayers of the penitent, 
grant that by true contrition I may obtain forgiveness 
of all the sins committed, and of all duties neglected, 
in my union with the wife whom thou hast taken from 
me ; for the neglect of joint devotion, patient exhorta- 
tion, and mild instruction/' 2 The kindness of his 
heart, notwithstanding the impetuosity of his temper, 
is well known to his friends ; and I cannot trace the 
smallest foundation for the following dark and unchar- 
itable assertion by Sir John Hawkins : " The apparition 
of his departed wife was altogether of theterrifick kind, 
and hardly afforded him a hope that she was in a state 
of happiness." 3 That he, in conformity with the opin- 
ion of many of the most able, learned, and pious Christ- 
ians in all ages, supposed that there was a middle state 
after death, previous to the time at which departed 
souls are finally received to eternal felicity, appears, ] 
think, unquestionably from his devotions:* "And, O 
Lord, so far as it may be lawful in me, I commend to 
thy fatherly goodness the soul of my departed wife ; be- 
seeching thee to grant her whatever is best in her 
present state, and tinalhf to receive her to eternal happi- 
ness."* But this state has not been looked upon with 
horrour, but only as less gracious. 

He deposited the remains of Mrs. Johnson in the 
church of Bromley in Kent, 6 to which he was proba- 

* [See his beautiful and affecting Rambler, No. 54. M.] 

2 Prayers and Meditations, p. 1 9. 

3 Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 316. 

* [It does not appear that Johnson was fully persuaded that there was a middle 
state ; his prayers being only conditional, i. e. if such a state existed. M.] 

5 Prayers and Meditations, p. 20. 

* [A few months before his death, Johnson honoured her memory by the follow- 
ing epitaph, which was inscribed on her tomb-stone, in the church of Bromley : 

Hie conduntur reliquiae 


Antiqua Jarvisiorum gente, 

Peatlingse, apud Leicestrienses, ortse ; 

Formosa^, cults, ingeniosas, pise ; 

Uxoris, primis nuptiis, Henrici Porter, 



bly led by the residence of his friend Hawkesworth at 1752. 
that place. The funeral sermon which he composed ^T^J" 
for her, which was never preached, but having been 43, 
given to Dr. Taylor, has boon published since his 
death, is a performance of uncommon excellence, and 
fuli of rational and pious comfort to such as are de- 
pressed by that severe affliction which Johnson felt 
when he wrote it. When it is considered that it was 
written in such an agitation of mind, and in the short 
interval between her death and burial, it cannot be 
read without wonder. 

From Mr. Francis Barber I have had the following 
authentick and artless account of the situation in which 
he found him recently after his wife's death : " He 
" was in great affliction. Mrs. Williams was then liv- 
" ing in his house, which was in Gough-square. He 
" was busy with the Dictionary. Mr. Shiels, and 
" some others of the gentlemen who had former! v writ- 
" ten for him, used to come about him. He had then 
" little for himself, but frequently sent money to Mr. 
" Shiels when in distress. The friends who visited 
" him at that time, were chiefly Dr. Bathurst, 7 and 
" Mr. Diamond, an apothecary in Cork-street, Burling- 
" ton-gardens, with whom he and Mrs. Williams gen- 
" erally dined every Sunday. There was a talk of his 
" going to Iceland with him, which would probably 
•' have happened, had he lived. There were also Mr. 
" Cave, Dr. Hawkesworth, Mr. R viand, merchant on 
" Tower-hill, Mrs. Masters, the poetess, who lived with 
" Mr. Cave, Mrs. Carter, and sometimes Mrs. Macaul- 
'-• ay; also, Mrs. Gardiner, wife of a tallow-chandler on 

Secundig, Samuelis Johnson ; 

Qui multum amatam, diuque defletam 

Hoc lapide contexit. 

Obiit Londini, Mense Mart. 


Dr. Bathurst, though a physician of no inconsiderable merit, had not the good 
fortune to get much practice in London. He was, therefore, willing to accept of 
employment abroad, and, to the regret of all who knew him, fell a sacrifice to the 
destructive climate, in the expedition against the Havannah. Mr. Langton recol- 
lects the following passage in a letter from Dr. Johnson to Mr. Beauclerk : " The 
Havannah is taken ; — a conquest too dearly obtained ; for, Bathurst died before it 
" fix Priamus tattti totaquc Tr"i<i fuit." 

192 THE LIFE Of 

1752. " Sriow-hill, not in the learned way, but a worthy good 

JEtaT " woman ; ^ r - (now Sir Joshua) Reynolds ; Mr. Mil- 

43. ' " ler, Mr. Dodsley, Mr. Bouquet, Mr. Payne, of Pa- 

" ternoster-row, booksellers ; Mr. Strahan, the printer ; 

" the Earl of Orrery, Lord Southwell, Mr. Garrick." 

Many are, no doubt, omitted in this catalogue of his 
friends, and in particular, his humble friend Mr. Rob- 
ert Levet, an obscure practiser in physick amongst the 
lower people, his fees being sometimes very small sums, 
sometimes whatever provisions his patients could a fiord 
him ; but of such extensive practice in that way, that 
Mrs. Williams has told me, his walk was from Hounds- 
ditch to Mary bone. It appears from Johnson's diary,. 
that their acquaintance commenced about the year 
1746 ; and such was Johnson's predilection for him, 
and fanciful estimation of his moderate abilities, that 1 
have heard him say he should not be satisfied, though 
attended by all the College of Physicians, unless he 
had Mr. Levet with him. Ever since I was acquainted 
with Dr. Johnson, and many years before, as 1 have 
been assured by those who knew him earlier, Mr. Levet 
had an apartment in his house, or his chambers, and 
waited upon him every morning, through the whole 
course of his late and tedious breakfast. He was of a 
strange grotesque appearance, stiff and formal in his 
manner, and seldom said a word while any company 
was present. 8 

The circle of his friends, indeed, at this time was ex- 
tensive and various, far beyond what has been generally 
imagined. To trace his acquaintance with each par- 
ticular person, if it could be done, would be a task, of 
which the labour would not be repaid by the advan- 
tage. But exceptions are to be made ; one of which 
must be a friend so eminent as Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
who was truly his duke decus, and with whom he 
maintained an uninterrupted intimacy to the last houi 
of his life. When Johnson lived in Castle-street, Cav- 
endish-square, he used frequently to visit two ladies 

8 [A more particular account of this person may be found in the Gentleman'.' 
Magazine for February ] 785. It originally appeared in the St. James's Chronicle 
and; I believe, was written by the late George Steevens, Es<j. M.] 


who lived opposite to him, Miss Cotterells, daughters *752. 
of Admiral Cotterell. Reynolds used also to visit ^^ 
there, and thus they met. Air. Reynolds, as I have ob- 43, 
served above, had, from the first reading- of his Life of 
Savage, conceived a very high admiration of Johnson's 
powers of writing. His conversation no less delighted 
him ; and he cultivated his acquaintance with the laud- 
able zeal of one who was ambitious of general im- 
provement. Sir Joshua, indeed, was lucky enough at 
their very first meeting to make a remark, which was 
so much above the common-place style of conversation, 
that Johnson at once perceived that Reynolds had the 
habit of thinking for himself. The ladies were regret- 
ting the death of a friend, to whom they owed great 
obligations ; upon which Reynolds observed, " You 
have, however, the comfort of being relieved from a 
burthen of gratitude." They were shocked a little at 
this alleviating suggestion, as too selfish ; but Johnson 
defended it in his clear and forcible manner, and was 
much pleased with the mind, the fair view of human 
nature, which it exhibited, like some of the reflections 
of Rochefaucault. The consequence was, that he went 
home with Reynolds, and supped with him. 

Sir Joshua told me a pleasant characteristical anec- 
dote of Johnson about the time of their first acquaint- 
ance. When they were one evening together at the 
Miss Cotterells', the then Duchess of Argyle and anoth- 
er ladv of his:h rank came in. Johnson thinking that 
the Miss Cotterells were too much engrossed by them, 
and that he and his friend were neglected, as low com- 
pany of whom they were somewhat ashamed, grew an- 
gry ; and resolving to shock their supposed pride, by 
making their great visitors imagine that his friend and 
he were low indeed, he addressed himself in a loud 
tone to Mr. Reynolds, saying, 41 How much do you 
think you and 1 could get in a week, if we were to work 
as hard as we could !" — as if thev had been common 

His acquaintance with Rennet Langton, Esq. of Lang- 
ton, in Lincolnshire, another much valued friend, com- 
menced soon after the conclusion of his Rambler ; which 

VOL. I. ?J 


^752. that gentleman, then a youth, had read with so much 
j$r/J7' admiration, that he came to London chiefly with a view 
43. ©f endeavouring to be introduced to its authour. By a 
fortunate chance he happened to take lodgings in a 
house where Mr. Levet frequently visited ; and having 
mentioned his wish to his landlady, she introduced him 
to Mr. Levet, who readily obtained Johnson's permis- 
sion to bring Mr. Langton to him ; as, indeed, Johnson, 
during the whole course of his life, had no shyness, real 
or affected, but was easy of access to all who were prop- 
erly recommended, and even wished to see numbers at 
his levee, as his morning circle of company might, with 
strict propriety, be called. Mr. Langton was exceed- 
ingly surprised when the sage first appeared. He had 
not received the smallest intimation of his figure, dress, 
or manner. From perusing his writings, he fancied he 
should see a decent, well-drest, in short, a remarkably 
decorous philosopher. Instead of which, down from 
his bed-chamber, about noon, came, as newly risen, a 
huge uncouth figure, with a little dark wig which scarce- 
ly covered his head, and his clothes hanging loose about 
him. But his conversation was so rich, so animated, 
and so forcible, and his religious and political notions so 
congenial with those in which Langton had been edu- 
cated, that he conceived for him that veneration and at- 
tachment which he ever preserved. Johnson was not 
the less ready to love Mr. Langton, for his beino- of a 
very ancient family ; for I have heard him say, with 
pleasure, " Langton, Sir, has a grant of free warren 
from Henry the Second ; and Cardinal Stephen Lang- 
ton, in King John's reign, was of this family." 

Mr. Langton afterwards went to pursue his studies at 
Trinity College, Oxford, where he formed an acquaint- 
ance with his fellow student, Mr. Topham Beauclerk ; 
who, though their opinions and modes of life were so 
different, that it seemed utterly improbable that they 
should at all agree, had so ardent a love of literature, 
so acute an understanding, such elegance of manners^ 
and so well discerned the excellent qualities of Mr. 
Langton, a gentleman eminent not only for worth and 
learning, but for an inexhaustible fund of entertaining 
conversation, that they became intimate friends. 

«n. JOHNSON. 193 

Johnson, soon after (his acquaintance began, passed 1759. 
a considerable time at Oxford. He al first thought it ^^ 
strange that Langton should associate so much with 43. 
•nc who had the character of being loose, both in his 
principles and practice : but, by degrees, he himself 
was fascinated. Mr. Beauclerk's being of the St. Al- 
ban's family, and having, in some particulars, a resem- 
blance to Charles the Second, contributed, in Johnson's 
imagination, to throw a lustre upon his other qualities; 
and in a short time, the moral, pious Johnson, and the 
gay, dissipated Beauclerk, were companions. " What 
a coalition ! (said Garrick, when he heard of this :) [ 
shall have my old friend to bail out of the Round- 
house." But 1 can bear testimony that it was a very 
agreeable association. Beauclerk was too polite, and 
valued learning and wit too much, to offend Johnson 
by sallies of infidelity or licentiousness ; and Johnson 
delighted in the good qualities of Beauclerk, and hoped 
to correct the evil. Innumerable were the scenes in 
which Johnson was amused by these young; men. 
Beauclerk could take more liberty with him, than any 
body with whom 1 ever saw him ; but, on the other 
hand, Eieaucierk was not spared by his respectable com- 
panion, when reproof was proper. Beauclerk had such 
a propensity to satire, that at one time Johnson said to 
him, " You never open your mouth but with intention 
to give pain ; and you have often given me pain, not 
from the power of what you said, but from seeing your 
intention.'' At another time applying to him, with a 
slight alteration, a line of Pope, he said, 

" Thy love of folly, and thy scorn of fools — 

Every thing thou dost shews the one, and every thing 
thou say'st the other." At another time he said to him, 
" Thy body is all vice, and thy mind all virtue." Beau- 
clerk not seeming to relish the compliment, Johnson 
said, " Nay, Sir, Alexander the Great, marching in tri- 
umph into Babylon, could not have desired to have had 
more said to him." 

Johnson was some time with Beauclerk at his house 
at Windsor, where he was entertained with experiments 


1752. in natural philosophy. One Sunday, when the weather 
3?£^ was very fine, Beauclerk enticed him, insensibly to 
43. saunter about all the morning. They went into si 
church-yard, in the time of divine service, and Johnson 
laid himself down at his ease upon one of the tomb- 
stones. " Now, Sir, (said Beauclerk) you are like Ho- 
garth's Idle Apprentice." When Johnson got his pen- 
sion, Beauclerk said to him, in the humourous phrase 
of FalstafF, " I hope you'll now purge and live cleanly, 
like a gentleman." 

One night when Beauclerk and Langton had supped 
at a tavern in London, and sat till about three in the 
morning, it came into their heads to go and knock up 
Johnson, and see if they could prevail on him to join 
them in a ramble. They rapped violently at the door 
of his chambers in the Temple, till at last he appeared 
in his shirt, with his little black wig on the top of his 
head, instead of a nightcap, and a poker in his hand, 
imagining, probably, that some ruffians were coming to 
attack him. When he discovered who they were, and was 
told their errand, he smiled, and with great good humour 
agreed to their proposal : ;i What, is it you, you dogs ! 
I'll have a frisk with you." He was soon drest, and 
they sallied forth together into Covent-Garden, where 
the green-grocers and fruiterers were beginning to ar- 
range their hampers, just come in from the country. 
Johnson made some attempts to help them ; but the 
honest gardeners stared so at his figure and manner, and 
odd interference, that he soon saw his services were not 
relished. They then repaired to one of the neighbour- 
ing taverns, and made a bowl of that liquor called Bish- 
op, which Johnson had always liked : while in joyous 
contempt of sleep, from which he had been roused, he 
repeated the festive lines, 

Short, O short then be thy reign, 
And give us to the world again !" 9 

9 Mr. Langton has recollected, or Dr. Johnson repeated, the passage wrong 
The lines are in Lord Lansdowne's Drinking Song to Sleep, and run thus : 

" Short, very short be then thy reign, 

'■'■ For l"m in ha;te to laugh and drink again," 


They did not stay long, but walked down to the 1753. 
Thames, took a boat, and rowed to Billingsgate. Beau- ^^ 
clerk and Johnson were so well pleased with their 44. 
amusement, that they resolved to persevere in dissipa- 
tion for the rest of the day : but Langton deserted them, 
being engaged to breakfast with some young ladies. 
Johnson scolded him for " leaving his social friends, to 
0-0 and sit with a set of wretched un-idead girls." Gar- 
rick being told of this ramble, said to him smartly, " I 
heard of your frolick t'other night. You'll be in the 
Chronicle." Upon which Johnson afterwards observ- 
ed, " He durst not do such a thing, His wife would 
not let him !" 

He entered upon this year \Jo3 with his usual piety, 
as appears from the following prayer, which I transcrib- 
ed from that part of his diary which he burnt a few 
days before his death : 

" Jan. 1*1 7o3, N. S. which I shall use for the future. 

" Almighty God, who hast continued my life to this 
day, grant that, by the assistance of thy Holy Spirit, I 
may improve the time which thou shalt grant me, to 
my eternal salvation. Make me to remember, to thy 
glory, thy judgements and thy mercies. Make me so to 
consider the loss of my wife, whom thou hast taken 
from me, that it may dispose me, by thy grace, to lead 
the residue of my life in thy fear. Grant this, O Lord, 
for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen." 

He now relieved the drudgery of his Dictionary, and 
the melancholy of his grief, by taking an active part in 
the composition of " The Adventurer," in which he 
began to write April 10, marking his essays with the 
signature T, by which most of his papers in that col- 
lection are distinguished : those, however, which have 
that signature and also that of Mi/sargyrus, were not 
written by him, but, as I suppose, by Dr. Bathurst. In- 
deed Johnson's energy of thought and richness of lan- 
guage, are still more decisive marks than any signature. 
As a proof of this, my readers, 1 imagine, will not doubt 
that number 39, on sleep, is his ; for it not only has the 
general texture and colour of his style, but the authours 
with whom he was peculiarly conversant are readily in- 


1753. troduced in it in cursory allusion. The translation of a 
iEtat. P as sage in Statius quoted in that paper, and marked C. 
44. B. has been erroneously ascribed to Dr. Bathurst, whose 
Christian name was Richard. How much this amiable 
man actually contributed to " The Adventurer," can- 
not be known. Let me add that ITawkes worth's imi- 
tations of Johnson are sometimes so happy, that it is 
extremely difficult to distinguish them with certainty, 
from the compositions of his great archetype. Hawkes- 
worth was his closest imitator, a circumstance of which 
that writer would once have been proud to be told ; 
though, when he had become elated by having risen 
into some degree of consequence, he, in a conversation 
with me, had the provoking effrontery to say he was not 
sensible of it. 

Johnson was truly zealous for the success of " The 
Adventurer ;" and very soon after his engaging in it. 
he wrote the following letter : 


" I ought to have written to you before now, but 
1 ought to do many things which 1 do not ; nor can I, 
indeed, claim any merit from this letter ; for being de- 
sired by the authours and proprietor of the Adventurer 
to look out for another hand, my thoughts necessarily 
fixed upon you, whose fund of literature will enable 
you to assist them, with very little interruption of your 

" They desire you to engage to furnish one paper a 
month, at two guineas a paper, which you may very 
readily perform. We have considered that a paper 
should consist of pieces of imagination, pictures of life, 
and disquisitions of literature. The part which depends 
on the imagination is very well supplied, as you will 
find when you read the paper ; for descriptions of life, 
there is now a treaty almost made with an authour and 
an authouress ; and the province of criticism and lite- 
rature they are very desirous to assign to the commen- 
tator on Virgil. 


" I hope this proposal will not be rejected, and that 1753. 
the next post will bring us your compliance. 1 speak jgj^ 
as one of the fraternity, though 1 have no part in the 44. 
paper, beyond now and then a motto ; but two of the 
writers are my particular friends, and 1 hope the pleas- 
ure of seeing a third united to them, will not be denied 
to, dear Sir, 

" Your most obedient, 

" And most humble servant, 

" March 8, 1753. "Sam. Johnson." 

The consequence of this letter was, Dr. Warton's 
enriching the collection with several admirable essays. 

Johnson's saying " 1 have no part in the paper be- 
yond now and then a motto," may seem inconsistent 
with his being the authour of the papers marked T. 
But he had, at this time, written only one number ; 
and besides, even at any after period, he might have 
used the same expression, considering it as a point of 
honour not to own them ; for Mrs. Williams told me 
that, " as he had given those Essays to Dr. Bathurst, 
who sold them at two guineas each, he never would 
own them ; nay, he used to say he did not write them : 
but the fact was, that he dictated them, while Bathurst 
wrote." 1 read to him Mrs. Williams's account ; he 
smiled, and said nothing. 

I am not quite satisfied with the casuistry by which 
the productions of one person are thus passed upon the 
world for the productions of another. 1 allow that not 
only knowledge, but powers and qualities of mind may 
be communicated ; but the actual effect of individual 
exertion never can be transferred, with truth, to any 
other than its own original cause. One person's child 
may be made the child of another person by adoption, 
as among the Romans, or by the ancient Jewish mode 
of a wife having children borne to her upon her knees, 
by her handmaid. But these were children in a dif- 
ferent sense from that of nature. It was clearly under- 
stood that they were not of the blood of their nominal 
parents. So in literary children, an authour may give 
the profits and fame of his composition to another man, 


1753. but cannot make that other the real authour. A High - 
JEtaT ' anc ' gentleman, a younger branch of a family, once 
44> consulted me if he could not validly purchase the Chief- 
tainship of his family from the Chief who was willing 
to sell it. 1 told him it was impossible for him to ac- 
quire, by purchase, a right to be a different person 
from what he really was ; for that the right of Chief- 
tainship attached to the blood of primogeniture, and, 
therefore, was incapable of ?being transferred. 1 added, 
that though Esau sold his birth-right, or the advantages 
belonging to it, he still remained the first-born of his 
parents ; and that whatever agreement a Chief might 
make with any of the clan, the Heralds-Office could 
not admit of the metamorphosis, or with any decency 
attest that the younger was the elder ; but I did not 
convince the worthy gentleman. 

Johnson's papers in the Adventurer are very similar 
to those of the Rambler ; but being rather more varied 
in their subjects,' and being mixed with essays by- 
other writers, upon topicks more generally attractive 
than even the most elegant ethical discourses, the sale 
of the work, at first, was more extensive. Without 
meaning, however, to depreciate the Adventurer, I must 
observe, that as the value of the Rambler came, in the 
progress of time, to be better known, it grew upon the 
publick estimation, and that its sale has far exceeded 
that of any other periodical papers since the reign of 
Queen Anne. 

In one of the books of his diary I find the following 
entrv : 

" Apr. 3, 1753. I began the second vol. of my Dic- 
tionary, room being left in the first for Preface, Cram- 
mar, and History, none of them yet begun. 

" O God, who hast hitherto supported me, enable 
me to proceed in this labour, and in the whole task of 
my present state ; that when 1 shall render up, at the 
last day, an account of the talent committed to me, I 
may receive pardon, for the sake of Jesus Christ. 

' [Dr. Johnson lowered and somewhat disguised his style, in writing the Adven- 
turers, in order that his Papers might pass for those of Dr. Bathurst, to whom he 
consigned the profits. This was Hawkesworth's opinion. B-] 


He this year favoured Mrs. Lenox with a Dcdica- 1754. 
tion* to the Earl of Orrery, of her "Shakspeare 111 us- j£ t ^ 
trated." 1 4.5. 

In 17o4 I can trace nothing published by him,^x- 
cept his numbers of the Adventurer, and kl TheTjfe 
of Edward Cave/'* in the gentleman's Magazine for 
February. In biography there can be no question that 
he excelled, beyond all who have attempjgd that spe- 
cies of composition ; upon which, indeed, ne set the 
highest value. To the minute selection of character- 
istical circumstances, for which the ancients were re- 
markable, he added a philosophical research, and the 
most perspicuous and energetick language. Cave was 
certainly a man of estimable qualities, and was emi- 
nently diligent and successful in his own business, 
which, doubtless, entitled him to respect. But he was 
peculiarly fortunate in being recorded by Johnson ; 
who, of the narrow life of a printer and publisher, with- 
out anv digressions or adventitious circumstances, has 
made an interesting and agreeable narrative. 

The Dictionary, we may believe, afforded Johnson 
full occupation this year. As it approached to its con- 
clusion, he probably worked with redoubled vigour, as 
seamen increase their exertion and alacrity when they 
have a near prospect of their haven. 

Lord Chesterfield, to whom Johnson had paid the 
high compliment of addressing to his Lordship the Plan 
of his Dictionary, had behaved to him in such a manner 
as to excite his contempt and indignation. The world 
has been for many years amused with a story confi- 

2 [Two of Johnson's Letters, addressed to Samuel Richardson, author of Clar- 
issa, &c. the former dated March 9, 1750-1, the other September 26, 1753, are 
preserved in Richardson's Correspondence, 8vo. 1804, vol. v. pp. 281 — 284. In 
the latter of these letters Johnson suggested to Richardson, the propriety of mak- 
ing an Index to his three works : " but while I am writing, (he adds) an objec- 
tion arises ; such an index to the three would look like the preclusion of a fourth, 
to which I will never contribute ; for if I cannot benefit mankind, I hope never to 
injure them." Richardson, however, adopted the hint ; for in 1755 he published 
in octavo, " A Collection of the Moral and Instructive Sentiments, Maxims, Cau- 
tions and Reflections, contained in the Histories of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles 
Grandison, digested under proper heads. 

It is remarkable, that both to this book, and to the first two volumes of Clarissa, 
is prefixed a Preface, by a friend. The "friend," in this latter instance, was tho 
celebrated Dr. Warburton. M.] 

vol. i. 26 


1754. dently told, and as confidently repeated with additional 
JEut. circumstances, that a sudden disgust was taken by 
45. Johnson upon occasion of his having been one day 
kept long in waiting in his Lordship's antechamber, for 
which the reason assigned was, that he had company 
with him ; and that at last, when the door opened, out 
walked Colley Cibber ; and that Johnson was so vio- 
lently provoked when he found for whom he had been 
so long excluded, that he went away in a passion, and 
never would return. I remember having mentioned 
this storv to Geome Lord Lyttelton, who told me, he 
was very intimate with Lord Chesterfield ; and holding- 
it as a well-known truth, defended Lord Chesterfield 
by saying, that " Cibber, who had been introduced fa- 
miliarly by the back-stairs, had probably not been there 
above ten minutes." It mav seem strange even to en- 
tertain a doubt concerning a story so long and so widely 
current, and thus implicitly adopted, if not sanctioned, 
by the authority which 1 have mentioned ; but Johnson 
himself assured me, that there was not the least found- 
ation for it. He told me, that there never was anv 
particular incident which produced a quarrel between 
Lord Chesterfield and him ; but that his Lordship's 
continued neglect was the reason whv he resolved to 
have no connection with him. When the Dictionary 
was upon the eve of publication, Lord Chesterfield, 
who, it is said, had flattered himself with expectations 
that Johnson would dedicate the work to him, attempt- 
ed, in a courtly manner, to soothe and insinuate him- 
self with the Sage, conscious, as it should seem, of the 
cold indifference with which he had treated its learned 
authour ; and further attempted to conciliate him, by 
writing two papers in " The World," in recommenda- 
tion of the work ; and it must be confessed, that they 
contain some studied compliments, so finely turned, 
that if there had been no previous offence, it is proba- 
ble that Johnson would have been highly delighted. 
Praise, in general, was pleasing to him ; but by praise 
from a man of rank and elegant accomplishments, he 
was peculiarly gratified. 

DR. JOHNSON". 20:3 

His Lordship says, " I think the publick in general. 1754. 
and the republick of letters in particular, are greatly JJ££ 
obliged to Mr. Johnson, for having undertaken, and 45. 
executed so great and desirable a work. Perfection is 
not to be expected from man ; but if we are to'judge 
by the various works of Johnson already published, we 
have good reason to believe, that he will bring this as 
near to perfection as any man could do. The Plan of 
it, which he published some years ago, seems to me to 
be a proof of it. Nothing can be more rationally im- 
agined, or more accurately and elegantly expressed. I 
therefore recommend the previous perusal of it to all 
those who intend to buv the Dictionary, and who, I 

suppose, are all those who can afford it." 


" It must be owned, that our language is, at present, 
in a state of anarchy, and hitherto, perhaps, it may not 
have been the worse for it. During our free and open 
trade, many words and expressions have been import- 
ed, adopted, and naturalized from other languages, 
which have o Te atlv enriched our own. Let it still 
preserve what real strength and beauty it may have 
borrowed from others ; but let it not, like the Tarpeian 
maid, be overwhelmed and crushed by unnecessary or- 
naments. The time for discrimination seems to be 
now come. Toleration, adoption, and naturalization 
have run their lengths. Good order and authority are 
now necessary. But where shall we find them, and, at 
the same time, the obedience due to them I We must 
have recourse to the old Roman expedient in times of 
confusion, and chuse a dictator. Upon this principle. 
I give my vote for Mr. -Johnson to fill that great and 
arduous post. And I hereby declare, that 1 make a 
total surrender of all my rights and privileges in the 
English language, as a free-born British subject, to the 
said Mr. Johnson, during the term of his dictatorship. 
Nay more, I will not only obey him like an old Roman, 
as my dictator, but, like a modern Roman, I will im- 
plicitly believe in him as my Pope, and hold him to be 
infallible while in the chair, but no longer. More than 
this he cannot well require ; for, 1 presume, that obe- 


1754. dience can never be expected, when there is neither 

jjT,^ terrour to enforce, nor interest to invite it." 

/_' ******** 


' : But a Grammar, a Dictionary, and a History of 
our Language through its several stages, were still 
wanting at home, and importunately called for from 
abroad. Mr. Johnson's labours will now, I dare say, 
ver\ fullv supply that want, and greatlv contribute to 
the farther spreading of our language in other countries. 
Learners were discouraged, by finding no standard to 
resort to ; and, consequently, thought it incapable of 
anv. Thev will now be undeceived and encouraged." 

This courtly device failed of its effect. Johnson, 
who thought that " all was false and hollow," despised 
the honeyed words, and was even indignant that Lord 
Chesterfield should, for a moment, imagine, that he 
could be the dupe of such an artifice. His expression 
to me concerning Lord Chesterfield, upon this occasion, 
was, " Sir, after making great professions, he had, for 
many years, taken no notice of me ; but when my 
Dictionary was coming out, he fell a scribbling in ' The 
World 5 about it. Upon which 1 wrote him a letter ex- 
pressed in civil terms, but such as might shew him 
that I did not mind what he said or wrote, and that I 
had clone with him." 

This is that celebrated letter of which so much has 
been said, and about which curiosity has been so long- 
excited, without being gratified. 1 for many years so- 
licited Johnson to favour me with a copy of it, that so 
excellent a composition might not be lost to posterity. 
He delayed from time to time to give it me ; 3 till at 
last in 1781, when we were on a visit at Mr. Dilly's, at 
Southill in Bedfordshire, he was pleased to dictate it 
to me from memory. He afterwards found among his 

3 Dr. Johnson appeared to have had a remarkable delicacy with respect to the 
circulation of this letter ; for Dr. Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury, informs me that 
having many years ago pressed him to be allowed to read it to the second Lord 
Hardwicke, who was very desirous to hear it (promising at the. same time, that no 
copy of it should be taken) Johnson seemed much pleased that it had attracted 
the attention of a nobleman of such a respectable character ; but after pausing 
?ome time, declined to comply with the request, saying, with a smile, " No, Sir ; I 
have hurt the dog too much already ;" or words to that purpose. 



papers a copy of it, which he had dictated to Mr. Ba- 1754. 
retti, with its title and corrections, in his own hand- ^T^ 
writing. This he gave to Mr. Langton ; adding that 45. 
it' it were to come into print, he wished it to be from 
that copy. J>y Mr. Langton's kindness, 1 am enabled 
to enrich my work with a perfect transcript of what the 
world has so eagerly desired to see. 


"my lord, February 7, 17*55. 

"I have been lately informed, by the proprietor 
of the World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary 
is recommended to the publick, were written by your 
Lordship. To be so distinguished, is an honour, which, 
being very little accustomed to favours from the great, 
I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to 

" When, upon some slight encouragement, I first 
visited your Lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest 
of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and 
could not forbear to wish that I nwht boast myself Le 
vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre ; — that I might ob- 
tain that regard for which I saw the world contending ; 
but 1 found my attendance so little encouraged, that 
neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue 
it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in 
publick, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which 
a retired and uncourtiy scholar can possess. I had done 
all that 1 could ; and no man is well pleased to have 
his all neglected, be it ever so little. 

" Seven years, my Lord, have now past, since I 
waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from 
your door ; during which time I have been pushing on 
my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to 
complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge oi 
publication, without one act of assistance,* one word oi 

4 The following note is subjoined by Mr. Langton. " Dr. Johnson, when he 
gave me this copy of his letter, desired that I would annex to it his information 
to me, that whereas it is said in the letter that ' no assistance has been received,' 
he did once receive from Lord Chesterfield the sum of ten pounds, but as that was 
so inconsiderable a sum, he thought the mention of it could not properly find a 
place in a letter of the kind that this was." 


1754. encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treat- 
jE^ ment I did not expect, for I never had a Patron before. 
45. " The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted 
with Love, and found him a native of the rocks. 

" Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with un- 
concern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, 
when he has reached ground, encumbers him with 
help ? The notice which you have been pleased to take 
of my labours, had it been early, had been kind ; but 
it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot en- 
joy it ; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it ; 5 till I 
am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very 
cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no 
benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the 
Publick should consider me as owing that to a Patron, 
which Providence has enabled me to do for mvself. 

" Having carried on my work thus far with so little 
obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be 
disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be 
possible, with less ; for I have been long wakened from 
that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself 
with so much exultation, 

" My Lord, 
^ Your Lordship's most humble, 
" Most obedient servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 6 

" While this was the talk of the town, (says Dr. Ad- 
ams, in a letter to me) I happened to visit Dr. War- 
burton, who finding that I was acquainted with John- 

In this passage Dr. Johnson evidently alludes to the loss of his wife. We> 
iind the same tender recollection recurring to his mind upon innumerable occasions; 
and, perhaps no man ever more forcibly felt the truth of the sentiment so elegant- 
ly expressed by my friend Mr. Malone, in liis Prologue to Mr. Jephson's tragedy 
of Julia : 

" Vain — wealth, and fame, and fortune's fostering care, 

" If no fond breast the splendid blessings share ; 

" And, each day's bustling pageantry once past, 

" There, only there, our bliss is found at last." 

h Upon comparing this copy with that which Dr. Johnson dictated to me from 
recollection, the variations are found to be so slight, that this must be added to the 
many other proofs which he gave of the wonderful extent and accuracy of his 
memory. To gratify the curious in composition, 1 have deposited both the copies 
in the British Museum. 

DR. JOHNSON. L 20'( 

■son, desired me earnestly to carry his compliments to 1754. 
him, and to tell him, that he honoured him for his JT^ 
manly behaviour in rejecting these condescensions of 45. 
Lord Chesterfield, and tor resenting the treatment he 
had received from him with a proper spirit. Johnson 
was visibly pleased with this compliment, for he had al- 
ways a high opinion of YVarburton." 7 Indeed, the force 
of mind which appeared in this letter, was congenial 
with that which Warburton himself amply possessed. 

There is a curious minute circumstance Avhich struck 
me, in comparing the various editions of Johnson's Imi- 
tations of Juvenal. In the tenth Satire one of the coup- 
lets upon the vanity of wishes even for literary distinc- 
tion stood thus: 

" Yet think what ills the scholar's life assail, 
" Toil, envy, want, the garret, and the jail." 

But after experiencing the uneasiness which Lord 
Chesterfield's fallacious patronage made him feel, he 
dismissed the word garret from the sad group, and in 
all the subsequent editions the line stands 

" Toil, envy, want, the Patron, and the jail." 

That Lord Chesterfield must have been mortified by 
the lofty contempt, and polite, yet keen, satire with 
which Johnson exhibited him to himself in this letter, 
it is impossible to doubt. He, however, with that glossy 
duplicity which was his constant study, aflected to be 
quite unconcerned. Dr. Adams mentioned to Mr. Rob- 
ert Dodsley that he was sorry Johnson had written his 
letter to Lord Chesterfield. Dodslev, with the true feel- 
mgs of trade, said " he was very sorry too ; for that he 
had a property in the Dictionary, to which his Lord- 
ship's patronage might have been of consequence." He 

7 Soon after Edwards's " Canons of Criticism" came out, Johnson was dining a; 
Tonson the Bookseller's, with Hayman the Painter and some more company. Hay- 
man related to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that the conversation having turned upon Ed- 
wards's book, the gentlemen praised it much, and Johnson allowed its merit. Bu: 
when they went farther, and appeared to put that authour upon a level with War- 
burton, " Nay, (said Johnson,) he has given him some smart hits to be sure ; but 
there is no proportion between the two men ; they must not be named together. 
A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince ; but one is but an in, 
and the other is a horse still." 


1754. then told Dr. Adams, that Lord Chesterfield had shewn 
jjj^ him the letter. " 1 should have imagined (replied Dr. 
45. Adams) that Lord Chesterfield would have concealed 
it." " Poh ! (said Dodsley) do you think a letter from 
Johnson could hurt Lord Chesterfield ? Not at all, Sir. 
It lay upon his table, where any body might see it. 
He read it to me ; said, ' this man has great powers,* 
pointed out the severest passages, and observed how 
well they were expressed." This air of indifference., 
which imposed upon the worthy Dodsley, was certainly 
nothing but a specimen of that dissimulation which 
Lord Chesterfield inculcated as one of the most essen- 
tial lessons for the conduct of life. His Lordship en- 
deavoured to justify himself to Dodsley from the charg- 
es brought against him by Johnson ; but we may judge 
of the flimsiness of his defence, from his having excus- 
ed his neglect of Johnson, by saying, that " he had 
heard he had changed his lodgings, and did not know 
where he lived ;" as if there could have been the small- 
est difficulty to inform himself of that circumstance, by 
enquiring in the literary circle with which his Lordship 
was well acquainted, and was, indeed, himself, one of 
its ornaments. 

Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, and suggest- 
ed, that his not being admitted when he called on him, 
was probably not to be imputed to Lord Chesterfield ; 
for his Lordship had declared to Dodsley, that " he 
would have turned off the best servant he ever had, if 
he had known that he denied him to a man who would 
have been always more than welcome ;" and in con- 
firmation of this, he insisted on Lord Chesterfield's gen- 
eral affability and easiness of access, especially to lite- 
rary men. " Sir, (said Johnson) that is not Lord Ches- 
terfield ; he is the proudest man this day existing." 
" No, (said Dr. Adams) there is one person, at least, 
as proud ; I think, by your own account you are the 
prouder man of the two." " But mine (replied John- 
son instantly) was defensive pride." This, as Dr. Ad- 
ams well observed, was one of those happy turns for 
which he was so remarkably ready. 


Johnson having now explicitly avowed his opinion of 1754. 
Lord Chesterfield, did not refrain from expressing him ^ ut> 
self concerning that nobleman with pointed freedom : 45. 

" I 'his man (said he) 1 thought had been a Lord among 
wits; but, I find, he is only a wit among Lords !" 8 
And when his Letters to his natural son were publish- 
ed, he observed, that " they teach the morals of a whore, 
and the manners of a dancing-master." 9 

The character of a " respectable Hottentot," in Lord 
Chesterfield's letters, has been generally understood to 
be meant for Johnson, and I have no doubt that it was. 
But I remember when the Literary Property of those 
letters was contested in the Court of Session in Scot- 
land, and Mr. Henry Dundas," one of the counsel for 
the proprietors, read this character as an exhibition of 
Johnson, Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes, one of the 
Judges, maintained, with some warmth, that it was not 
intended as a portrait of Johnson, but of a late noble 
Lord, distinguished for abstruse science. 1 have heard 
Johnson himself talk of the character, and say that it 
was meant for George Lord Lyttelton, in which I could 
by no means agree ; for his Lordship had nothing of 
that violence which is a conspicuous feature in the 

8 [Johnson's character of Chesterfield seems to be imitated from — inter doctos no- 
hilissimus, inter nobilts docthsimus, inter utrosque optimus ; (ex Apuleio. V. Erasm. — Ded- 
ication of Adagies to Lord Mountjoy ;) and from iJWds ev fixer. ;.<>-, <pi\aaro<{x>i sv 
iJWaif. Proclus de Critia. K.j 

9 That collection of letters cannot be vindicated from the serious charge, of en- 
couraging, in some passages, one of the vices most destructive to the good order 
and comfort of society, which his Lordship represents as mere fashionably gallant- 
ry ; and, in others, of inculcating the base practice of dissimulation, and recom- 
mending, with disproportionate anxiety, a perpetual attention to external elegance 
of manners. But it must, at the same time, be allowed, that they contain many 
good precepts of conduct, and much genuine information upon life and manners, 
very happily expressed ; and that there was considerable merit in paying so much 
attention to the improvement of one who was dependent upon his Lordship's pro- 
tection ; it has, probably, been exceeded in no instance by the most exemplary pa- 
rent ; and though I can by no means approve of confounding the distinction be- 
tween lawful and illicit offspring, which is, in effect, insulting the civil establish- 
ment of our country, to look no higher ; I cannot help thinking it laudable to be 
kindly attentive to those, of whose existence we have, in any way, been the cause. 
Mr. Stanhope's character has been unjustly represented as diametrically opposite 
to what Lord Chesterfield wished him to be. He has been called dull, gross, and 
aukward : but I knew him at Dresden, when he was Envoy to that court ; and 
though he could not boast of thegraccs, he was, in truth, a sensible, civil, well-be- 
haved man. 

1 Now [1792] one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State. 

VOL. T. 2/ 


1754. composition. Finding that my illustrious friend could 
jeJ^ bear to have it supposed that it might be meant for him, 
45. ' I said, laughingly, that there was one trait which un- 
questionably did not belong to him ; " he throws his 
meat any where but down his throat." " Sir, (said he,) 
Lord Chesterfield never saw me eat in his life." 

On the 6th of March came out Lord Bolingbroke's 
works, published by Mr. David Mallet. The wild and 
pernicious ravings, under the name of " Philosophy," 
which were thus ushered into the world, gave great of- 
fence to all well-principled men. Johnson, hearing of 
their tendency, which nobody disputed, was roused 
with a just indignation, and pronounced this memora- 
ble sentence upon the noble authour and his editor. 
*' Sir, he was a scoundrel, and a coward : a scoundrel 
for charging a blunderbuss against religion and moral- 
ity ; a coward, because he had no resolution to fire it 
otf himself, but left half a crown to a beggarly Scotch- 
man, to draw the trigger after his death !" Garrick, 
who I can attest from my own knowledge, had his mind 
seasoned with pious reverence, and sincerely disapprov- 
ed of the infidel writings of several, whom in the course 
of his almost universal gay intercourse with men of 
eminence, he treated with external civility, distinguish- 
ed himself upon this occasion. Mr. Pel ham having 
died on the very day on which Lord Bolingbroke's 
works came out, he wrote an elegant Ode on his death, 

" Let others hail the rising sun, 

" 1 bow to that whose course is run." 

in which is the following stanza : 

" The same sad morn, to Church and State 
44 (So for our sins 'twas fix'd by fate,) 

" A double stroke was given ; 
" Black as the whirlwinds of the North, 
" St. John's fell genius issued forth, 

" And Pelham fled to heaven." 

Johnson this year found an interval of leisure to 
make an excursion to Oxford, for the purpose of con- 

DR. JOHNSON. 2\ 1 

suiting the libraries there. Of this, and of many inter- 1754. 
esting circumstances concerning him, during a part of ^ t - 
his life when he conversed hut little with the world, I am 4.5, 
enabled to give a particular account, by the liberal com- 
munications of the Reverend Mr. Thomas Warton, who 
obligingly furnished me with several of our common 
friend's letters, which he illustrated with notes. These 
I shall insert in their proper places. 

" SIR, 

" It is but an ill return for the book with which 
you were pleased to favour me,' to have delayed my 
thanks for it till now. I am too apt to be negligent ; 
but 1 can never deliberately shew my disrespect to a 
man of your character : and I now pay you a very hon- 
est acknowledgement, for the advancement of the litera- 
ture of our native country. You have shewn to all, 
who shall hereafter attempt the study of our ancient 
authours, the way to success ; by directing them to the 
perusal of the books which those authours had read. 
Of this method, Hughes, 1 and men much greater than 
Hughes, seem never to have thought. The reason 
why the authours, which are yet read, of the sixteenth 
century, are so little understood, is, that they are read 
alone ; and no help is borrowed from those who lived 
with them, or before them. Some part of this igno- 
rance 1 hope to remove by my book, 3 which now draws 
towards it end : but which 1 cannot finish tomv mind, 
without visiting the libraries of Oxford, which 1 there- 
fore hope to see in a fortnight. 4 1 know not how long 
I shall stay, or where 1 shall lodge : but shall be sure 
to look for you at mv arrival, and we shall easilv settle 
the rest. I am, dear Sir, 

" Your most obedient, &c. 
[London] July 16, 1754. " Sam. Johnson." 


' " Observations on Spencer's Fail y Queen, the first edition of which was now 

2 " Hughes published an edition of Spencer." 

' " His Dictionary." 

* " He came to Oxford within a fortnight, and stayed about five weeks. He 
lodged at a house called Kettel-hall, near Trinity College. But during this visit 
at Oxford, he collected nothing in the libraries for his Dictionary." 


1754. Of his conversation while at Oxford at this time, 
iEtat! ^ r * ^ arton preserved and communicated to me the 
45. following memorial, which, though not written with all 
the care and attention which that learned and elegant 
writer bestowed on those compositions which he in- 
tended for the publick eye, is so happily expressed in 
an easy style, that I should injure it by any alteration : 
" When Johnson came to Oxford in 1754, the long 
vacation was beginning, and most people were leaving 
the place. This was the first time of his being there, 
after quitting the University. The next morning after 
his arrival ; he wished to see his old College, Pembroke. 
I went with him. lie was highly pleased to find all 
the College-servants which he had left there still re- 
maining, particularly a very old butler ; and expressed 
great satisfaction at being recognised by them, and con- 
versed with them familiarly. He waited on the master, 
Dr. liadcliffe, who received him very coldly. Johnson 
at least expected, that the master would order a copy of 
his Dictionary, now near publication ; but the master 
did not choose to talk on the subject, never asked John- 
son to dine, nor even to visit him, while he stayed at 
Oxford. After we had left the lodgings, Johnson said 
to me, ' There lives a man, who lives by the revenues of 
literature, and will not move a finger to support it. If 
1 come to live at Oxford, I shall take up my abode at 
Trinity. 3 We then called on the Reverend Mr. Meeke, 
one of the fellows, and of Johnson's standing. Here 
was a most cordial greeting on both sides. On leaving 
him, Johnson said, ' I used to think Meeke had excel- 
lent parts, when we were boys together at the college : 
but, alas ! 

' Lost in a convent's solitary gloom !' — 

' I remember, at the classical lecture in the Hall, I could 
not bear Meeke's superiority, and 1 tried to sit as far 
from him as 1 could, that 1 might not hear him con- 

" As we were leaving the College, he said, ' Here I 
translated Pope's Messiah. Which do you think is the 
best line in it ? — My own favourite is, 


; Vallis aromaticas fundtt Saronica nubes* <2-,^L, 

. T jEtat. 

I told him, I thought it a very sonorous hexameter. 1 45. 
did not tell him, it was not in the Virgilian style. He 
much regretted that his first tutor was dead : for whom 
he seemed to retain the greatest regard, lie said, ' I 
once had been a whole morning sliding in Christ-Church 
meadows and missed his lecture in logick. After din- 
ner he sent for me to his room. I expected a sharp re- 
buke for my idleness, and went with a beating heart. 
W hen we were seated, he told me he had sent for me 
to drink a glass of wine with him, and to tell me, he 
was not angry with me for missing his lecture. This 
was, in fact, a most severe reprimand. Some more of 
the boys were then sent for, and we spent a very pleas- 
ant afternoon/ Besides Mr. Meeke, there was only 
one other Fellow of Pembroke now resident : from both 
of whom Johnson received the greatest civilities during 
this visit, and they pressed him very much to have a 
room in the College. 

" In the course of this visit (17-5-K) Johnson and I 
walked three or four times to Ellsfield, a village beauti- 
fully situated about three miles from Oxford, to see 
Mr. Wise, Radclivian librarian, with whom Johnson 
was much pleased. At this place, Mr. Wise had fitted 
up a house and gardens, in a singular manner, but with 
great taste. Here was an excellent library, particularly, 
a valuable collection of books in Northern literature, 
with which Johnson was often very busy. One day 
Mr. Wise read to us a dissertation which he was pre- 
paring for the press, intitled, " A History and Chro- 
nology of the fabulous Ages." Some old divinities of 
Thrace, related to the Titans, and called the Cabiri, 
made a very important part of the theory of this piece ; 
and in conversation afterwards, Mr. Wise talked much 
of his Cabiri. As we returned to Oxford in the eve- 
ning, I outwalked Johnson, and he cried out Suffiamina. 
a Latin word which came from his mouth with peculiar 
grace, and was as much as to say, Put on your drag 
chain. Before we got home, 1 again walked too fast for 
him ; and he now cried out, ' Why, you walk as if 


1754. you were pursued by all the Cabiri in a body/ In 
JJ^an evening we frequently took long walks from Oxford 
45. into the country, returning to supper. Once, in our 
way home, we viewed the ruins of the abbies of Oseney 
and Rewley, near Oxford. After at least half an hour's 
silence, Johnson said, ' I viewed them with indigna- 
tion !' We had then a long conversation on Gothick 
buildings ; and in talking of the form of old halls, he. 
sajc], ' In these halls, the fire place was anciently always 
in the middle of the room, till the Whigs removed it on 
one side/ — About this time there had been an execu- 
tion of two or three criminals at Oxford on a Monday. 
Soon afterwards, one day at dinner, I was saying to Mr. 
Swinton, the chaplain of the gaol, and also a frequent 
preacher before the University, a learned man, but often 
thoughtless and absent, preached the condemnation ser- 
mon on repentance, before the convicts, on the prece- 
ding day, Sunday ; and that in the close he told his 
audience, that he should give them the remainder of 
what he had to say on the subject, the next Lord's day. 
Upon which, one of our company, a Doctor of Divin- 
ity, and a plain matter-of-fact man, by way of offering 
an apology for Mr. Swinton, gravely remarked, that he 
had probably preached the same sermon before the 
University : ' Yes, Sir, (says Johnson) but the Uni- 
versity were not to be handed the next morning. " 

" 1 fors-ot to observe before, that when he left Mr. 
Meeke, (as I have told above) he added, ' About the 
same time of life, Meeke was left behind at Oxford to 
feed on a Fellowship, and 1 went to London to get my 
living : now, Sir, see the difference of our literary char- 
acters !" 

The following letter was written by Dr. Johnson to 
Mr. Chambers, of Lincoln College, afterwards Sir Rob- 
ert Chambers, one of the judges in India : 6 


" The commission which I delayed to trouble you 
with at your departure, I am now obliged to send you ; 

* Communicated by die Reverend Mr. Thomas Warton 3 who had the original. 



and beg that you will be so kind as to carry it to Mr. 1754. 
Warton, of trinity, to whom I should have written im- jg£J 
mediately, but that 1 know not if he be yet come back 4.5. 
to Oxford. 

" In the Catalogue of MSS. of Gr. Brit, see vol. I. 
pas;. IS. MSS. Bodl. Martyrium xv. martyrum sub Ju- 
liuno. auctore Theophylacto. 

" It is desired that Mr. Warton will enquire, and 
send word, what will be the cost of transcribing this 

" Vol. II. p. 32. Num. 1092. 53. Coll. Nov. — Com- 
■menturia in Acta Apostol. — Comment, in Septem Episto- 
las Catholicas. 

" He is desired to tell what is the age of each of 
these manuscripts : and what it will cost to have a 
transcript of the two first pages of each. 

" If Mr. Warton be not in Oxford, you may trv if 
you can get it done by any body else ; or stay till he 
comes according to your own convenience. It is for 
an Italian literato. 

" The answer is to be directed to his Excellency 
Mr. Zon, Venetian Resident, Soho-Square. 

" 1 hope, dear Sir, that you do not regret the change 
of London for Oxford. Mr. Baretti is well, and Mi^- 
Williams ; 7 and we shall all be glad to hear from you. 
whenever you shall be so kind as to write to, Sir, 

" Your most humble servant, 
" Nov. 21, 1751. " Sam. Johnson/ 1 

7 " I presume she was a relation of Mr. Zachariah Williams, who died in his 
eighty-third year, July 12, 1755. When Dr. Johnson was with me at Oxford, in 
1 755, he gave to the Bodleian Library a thin quarto of twenty-one pages, a work 
in Italian, with an English translation on the opposite page. The English title- 
page is this : " An Account of an Attempt to ascertain the Longitude at Sea, by 
an exact Variation of the Magnetical Needle, &c. By Zachariah Williams. Lon- 
don, printed for Dodsley, 1755." The English translation, from the strongest inter- 
nal marks, is unquestionably the work of Johnson. In a blank leaf, Johnson has 
written the age, and time of death, of the author Z. Williams, as I have said above. 
On another blank leaf, is pasted a paragraph from a news-paper, of the death and 
character of Williams, which is plainly written by Johnson. He was very anxious 
about placing this book in the Bodleian : and, for fear of any omission or mistake 
he entered, in the great Catalogue, the title-page of it with his own hand/' 

[In this statement there is a slight mistake. The English account, which was writ- 
ten by Johnson, was the :■. ' thi Ftalian was a t * '•''»... done by Baretti. 
See p. 237. M."> 

216 THE LIFE Of 

1754. The degree of Master of Arts, which, it has been ob- 
iEtaT serveQ, > could not be obtained for him at an early period 
45. ' of his life, was now considered as an honour of consid- 
erable importance, in order to grace the title-page of 
his Dictionary ; and his character in the literary world 
being by this time deservedly high, his friends thought 
that, if proper exertions were made, the University of 
Oxford would pay him the compliment. 


" I am extremely obliged to you and to Mr. Wise, 
for the uncommon care which you have taken of my 
interest: 8 if you can accomplish your kind design, I 
shall certainly take me a little habitation among you. 

"The books which I promised to Mr. Wise, 9 1 have 
not been able to procure : but 1 shall send him a Fin- 
nick Dictionary, the only copy, perhaps, in England, 
which was presented me by a learned Swede : but I 
keep it back, that it may make a set of my own books 
of the new edition, with which 1 shall accompany it. 
more welcome. You will assure him of my gratitude. 

" Poor dear Collins ! ■ — Would a letter give him any 
pleasure 1 1 have a mind to write. 

E " In procuring him the degree of Master of Arts by diploma at Oxford." 

9 " Lately fellow of Trinity College, and at this time Radclivian librarian, at Ox- 
ford. He was a man of very considerable learning, and eminently skilled in Ro- 
man and Anglo-Saxon antiquities. He died in 1767." 

1 " Collins (the poet) was at this time at Oxford, on a visit to Mr. Warton ; but 
labouring under the most deplorable languor of body, and dejection of mind." 

[In a letter to Dr. Joseph Warton, written some months before, (March 8, 1 754,) 
Dr. Johnson thus speaks of Collins : 

" But how little can we venture to exult in any intellectual powers or literary 
attainments, when we consider the condition ot poor Collins. I knew him a few 
years ago full of hopes, and full of projects, versed in many languages, high in fan- 
cy, and strong in retention. This busy and forcible mind is now under the gov- 
ernment of those, who lately could not have been able to comprehend the least and 
most narrow of his designs. What do you hear of him ? are there hopes of his recov- 
ery ? or is he to pass the remainder of his life in misery and degradation ? per- 
haps, with complete consciousness of his calamity." 

In a subsequent letter to the same gentleman, (Dec. 24, 1754) he thus feel- 
ingly alludes to their unfortunate friend : 

" Poor dear Collins ! Let me know whether you think it would give him pleas-, 
ure if I should write to him. I have often been near his state, and therefore have 
it in great commiseration." 

Again, — April 9, 1756 : 


" I am glad of your hindrance in your Spenserian 1754. 
design, 1 yet 1 would not have it delayed. Three j£ ta t. 
hours a day stolen from sleep and amusement will pro- 4.5. 
dure it. Let a Servitour* transcribe the quotations, 
and interleave them with references, to save time. 
This will shorten the work, and lessen the fatigue. 

" Can 1 do any thing to promoting the diploma ? I 
would not be wanting to co-operate with your kindness; 
of which, whatever be the effect, I shall be, dear Sir, 

" Your most obliged, &c. 
** [London,'] Nov. 28, 17^4. " Sam. Johnson/' 



I am extremely sensible of the favour done me, 
both by Mr. Wise and yourself. The book 3 cannot, 
I think, be printed in less than six weeks, nor probably 
so soon ; and I will keep back the title-page, for such an 
insertion as you seem to promise me. Be pleased to 
let me know what money I shall send you, for bearing 
the expence of the affair ; and I will take care that you 
may have it ready at your hand. 

" I had lately the favour of a letter from your brother, 
with some account of poor Collins, for whom I am 
much concerned. I have a notion, that by very great 
temperance, or more properly abstinence, he may yet 

" There is an old English and Latin book of poems 
by Barclay, called " The Ship of Fools ;" at the end 

" What becomes of poor dear Collins ? I wrote him a letter which he never 
answered. I suppose writing is very troublesome to him. That man is no com- 
mon loss. The moralists all talk of the uncertainty of fortune, and the transitori- 
ness of beauty : but it is yet more dreadful to consider that the powers of the mind 
are equally liable to change, that understanding may make its appearance and de- 
part, that it may blaze and expire." 

See Biographical Memoirs of the late Reverend Dr. Joseph Warton, by the Rev- 
erend John Wool, A. M. 4to. 1806. 

Mr. Collins, who was the son of a hatter at Chichester, was born December 25, 
1720, and was released from the dismal state here so pathetically described, in 
1756. M.] 

1 " Of publishing a volume of observations on the best of Spencer's work 1 ;. It 
was hindered by my taking pupils in this College." 

2 " Young students of the lowest rank at Oxford are so called." 

3 " His Dictionary." 

vol. i. 28 

218 THE LIFE Oi 

1755. of which are a number of Eglogues ; so he writes it, 
^EtaT. from Egloga, which are probably the first in our lan- 
46. guage. If you cannot find the book, I will get Mr. 
Dodsley to send it you. 

" I shall be extremely glad to hear from you again , 
to know, if the affair proceeds. 4 - I have mentioned it 
to none of my friends, for fear of being laughed at for 
my disappointment. 

" You know poor Mr. Dodsley has lost his wife ; 
I believe he is much affected. I hope he will not suffer 
so much as I vet suffer for the loss of mine. 

O'i/ui. n \ c'ifAi ; Quito, yzp 7rt7rci/Qa.jUW. 

I have ever since seemed to myself broken off from 
mankind ; a kind of solitary wanderer in the wild of 
life, without any direction, or fixed point of view : a 
gloomy gazer on the world to which 1 have Jittle rela- 
tion. Yet I would endeavour, by the help of you and 
your brother, to supply the want of closer union, by 
friendship : and hope to have long the pleasure of be- 
ing, dear Sir, 

" Most affectionately your's, 
"[Loudon,] Dec. 21, 17*34. " Sam. Johnson 


In 17.35, we behold him to great advantage ; his de- 
gree of Master of Arts conferred upon him, his Dic- 
tionary published, his correspondence animated, his be- 
nevolence exercised. 




" I wrote to you some weeks ago, but believe did 
not direct accurately, and therefore know not whether 
you had my letter. 1 would, likewise, write to your 
brother, but know not where to find him. I now be- 
gin to see land, after having wandered, according to 
Mr. Warburtoirs phrase, in this vast sea of words. 
What reception I shall meet with on the shore, 1 know 
not ; whether the sound of bells, and acclamations of 

4 " Of the degree at Oxford." 


the people, which Ariosto talks of in his last Canto, or 1755. 
a general murmur of dislike, I know not : whether 1 jT t ^ 
shall find upon the coast a Calypso that will court, or a 4$. 
Polypheme that will resist. But if Polypheme comes, 
have- at his eve. I hope, however, the criticks will let 
me be at peace : for though I do not much tear their 
skill and strength, 1 am a little afraid of myself, and 
would not willingly feel so much ill-will in my bosom 
as literary quarrels are apt to excite. 

" Mr. Baretti is about a work for which he is in 
great want of Crescimbeni, which you may have again 
when you please. 

" There is nothing considerable done or doing among 
us here. We are not, perhaps, as innocent as villagers, 
but most of us seem to be as idle. I hope, however, 
you are busy ; and should be glad to know what you 
are doing. 

" I am, dearest Sir, 

"Your humble servant, 
" [London,] Feb. 4, 17->J. " Sam. Johnson." 


" i received your letter this day, with great 
sense of the favour that has been done me ; s for which 
1 return my most sincere thanks : and entreat you to 
pay to Mr. Wise such returns as I ought to make for 
so much kindness so little deserved. 

" I sent Mr. Wise the Lexicon, and afterwards wrote 
to him ; but know not whether he had either the book 
or letter. Be so good as to contrive to enquire. 

" But why does my dear Mr. Warton tell me noth- 
ing of himself ? Where hangs the new volume? 6 Can 
1 help ? Let not the past labour be lost, for want of a 
little more : but snatch what time you can from the 
Hall, and the pupils, and the coffee-house, and the 
parks, and complete your design. I am dear Sir, &c. 
"'' [London,] Feb. 4, 17*3^. " Sam. Johnson." 

s " His degree had now past, according to the usual form, the suffrages of the 
heads of Colleges ; but was not yet finally granted by the University. It was car- 
ried without a single dissentient voice." 

« " On Spenser." 


1755. TO THE SAME. 

jEt£ " DEAR SIR > 

46. « 1 had a letter last week from Mr. Wise, but 

have yet heard nothing from you, nor know in what 
state my affair 7 stands; of which 1 beg you to inform 
me, if you can, to-morrow, by the return of the post. 

" Mr. Wise sends me word, that he has not had the 
Fennick Lexicon yet, which 1 sent some time ago ; 
and if he has it not, you must enquire after it. How- 
ever, do not let your letter stay for that. 

" Your brother, who is a better correspondent than 
you, and not much better, sends me word, that your 
pupils keep you in College : but do they keep you 
from writing too I Let them, at least, give you time to 
write to, dear Sir, 

" Your most affectionate, &c. 
"[London,] Feb. 13, 17<5o. " Sam. Johnson." 



" Dr. King 8 was with me a few minutes before 
your letter ; this, however, is the first instance in which 
your kind intentions to me have ever been frustrated. 9 
1 have now the full effect of your care and benevo- 
lence ; and am far from thinking it a slight honour, or 
a small advantage ; since it will put the enjoyment of 
your conversation more frequently in the power of, dear 

" Your most obliged and affectionate, 

" Sam. Johnson." 
" P.S. I have enclosed a letter to the Vice Chancel- 
lor,' which you will read ; and, if you like it, seal and 
give him. 

[ u London,] Feb. 1755." 

7 " Of the degree." 

* " Principal of Saint Mary Hall at Oxford. He brought with him the diplo- 
ma from Oxford." 

' " I suppose Johnson means that my kind intention of being thefrst to give him 
the good news of the degree being- granted wasfmstrated, because Dr. King brought 
it before my intelligence arrived." 

1 " Dr. Huddesford, President of Trinity College." 


As the Publick will doubtless be pleased to see the 1755. 
whole progress of this well-earned academical honour, jT^ 
I shall insert the Chancellor of Oxford's letter to the 46. 
University,* the diploma, and Johnson's letter of thanks 
to the Vice-Chancellor. 

'* To the Reverend Dr. Huddesford, Vice-Chancellor 
of the University of Oxford ; to be communicated to 
the Heads of Houses, and proposed in Convocation. 


" Mr. Samuel Johnson, who was formerly of 
Pembroke College, having very eminently distinguish- 
ed himself by the publication of a series of essays, ex- 
cellently calculated to form the manners of the people, 
and in which the cause of religion and morality is 
every where maintained by the strongest powers of ar- 
gument and language ; and who shortly intends to 
publish a Dictionary of the English Tongue formed on 
a new plan, and executed with the greatest labour and 
judgement; I persuade myself that 1 shall act agreea- 
ble to the sentiments of the whole University, in de- 
siring that it may be proposed in convocation to confer 
on him the degree of Master of Arts by diploma, to 
which I readily give my consent ; and am, 

" Mr. Vice-Chancellor, and Gentlemen, 

" Your affectionate friend and servant, 
" Grosvenor-street, Feb. 4, IJoo. " Arran." 

Term. Scti. 

Hiiarii. « Diploma Magistri Johnson. 


" CANCELLARIUS, Magistri et Scholares Uni- 
versitatis Oxoniensis omnibus ad quos hoc presens scrip- 
turn pervenerit, salutem in Domino sempiternam. 

" Cum earn in fnem gradus academici a majoribus 
nostris institnti fuerint, ut viri ingenio ct doctrind prce- 
stantes titu/is quoque prceter cceteros insignirentur ; 
ciimque vir doctissimus Samuel Johnson e Collegio Pem- 
hrochiensi^ script is suis popularium mores informantibus 

2 Extracted from the Convocation-Register, Oxford. 


1755. dudum tlieruto orbi hinotuerit ; quin et linguae patriae 
jEtat t um ornandce turn stabiliendre (Lexicon scilicet Anglica- 
46. mini summo studio, summo d sejudicio congestum propedi- 
em editurus) etiam nunc utilissimam impended operant ; 
Nos igitur Canccllarius, Magistri, et Scholares antedic- 
ti, ne virion de Uteris humanioribus optimc mention diu- 
tins inhonoratum prcctereamus, in solenni Convocations 
Doctor/on, Magistrorum, Regentium, et non Regentium t 
decimo die Mensis Februarii Anno Domini Millesimo 
Septiugentesimo Quinquagesimo quinlo habitd, prcefatum 
virion Samuelem Johnson ( conspirantibus omnium suf- 
frages) Magistrum in Artibus renioiciavimus et con- 
stituimus ; eumque, virtute prcesentis diplomatis, singu- 
lis juribus privilegiis et honoribus ad istum gradum quci- 
qiu) pertineutibus frui et guaderejussimus. 

" In cujus rci testimonium sigillum Universitatis Ox- 
oniensis prcesentibus apponifecimus. 

" Datum in Domo nostrce Convocations die 20° 
Mensis Feb. Anno Dom. prcedicto. 

*' Diploma supra scriptum per Registrarium iectum 
rrat, et ex decreto venerabilis Domus communi Univer- 
sitatis sigillo munition." >z 

Londiui. 4to Cal. Mart. 1J55. 



" INGRATUS plane ct tibi et milii videar, nisi 
quanto me gaudio afjecerint, quos nuper milii honores fte. 
credo, auctore,) decrevit Seuatus Academicus, Uterarum, 
quo tamen nihil levins, officio, significem : ingratus etiam, 
nisi comitatem, qua vir eximius $ mihi vestri testimonium 
amor is in mantis tradidit, agnoscam et laudem. Si quid 
est, unde rei tarn gratcv accedat gratia, hoc ipso magis 

3 The original is in my possession. 

4 [The superscription of this letter was not quite correct in the former editions. 
It is here given from Dr. Johnson's original letter, now before me. M.] 

^ We may conceive what a high gratification it must have been to Johnson to 
receive his diploma from the hands of the great Dr. King, whose principles 
were so congenial with his own. 

dr. joiixson. 223 

mihi placet^ c/uod eo tempore inordines Academicos denub l 7r>5. 
cooptatus sim, (juo tuam imminuere auctoritatem,famam- ^g tati 
que Oxonii Icedere, omnibus modis conantur homines vafri, 46. 
nee tumen acuti : quibus coo. prout viro umbratico licuit, 
semper res////, semper restiturus. Qui enim, inter has 
rerum procellas, vel tibi vel Academics defuerit, ilium 
virtuti et Uteris, sibique et pos/er/s, defuturum existimo. 




" After I received my diploma, I wrote you a 
letter of thanks, with a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, 
and sent another to Mr. Wise ; but have heard from 
nobody since, and begin to think myself forgotten. It 
is true, 1 sent you a double letter, and you may fear an 
expensive correspondent ; but L would have taken it 
kindly, if you had returned it treble : and what is a 
double letter to a petty king, that having fellowship and 
fines, can sleep without a Modus in his head I 6 

" Dear Mr. Warton, let me hear from you, and tell 
me something, I care not what, so 1 hear it but from 
you. Something, 1 will tell you : — I hope to see my 
Dictionary bound and lettered, next week ; — vastd mole 
superbus. And 1 have a great mind to come to Oxford 
at Easter ; but you will not invite me. Shall 1 come 
uninvited, or stay here where nobody perhaps would 
miss me if 1 went I A hard choice ! But such is the 
world to, dear Sir, 

•• Yours, &c. 
* [London] March 20, \7^>5. " Sam. Johnson." 


" Though not to write, when a man can write su 
well, is an offence sufficiently heinous, yet I shall pass 
it by. I am very glad that the Vice-Chancellor was 
pleased with my note. I shall impatiently expect you 
at London, that we may consider what to do next. 

6 " The Words in Ita'.ieks are allusions to passages in Mr. Warton'e poem, called 
•* The Progress of Discontent,' now lately published." 


1755. intend in the winter to open a Bibliotheq'ue, and re- 
member, that you are to subscribe a sheet a year : let 
us try, likewise, if we cannot persuade your brother to 
subscribe another. My book is now coming in luminis 
oras. What will be its fate 1 know not, nor think much, 
because thinking is to no purpose. It must stand the 
censure of the great vulgar and the small ; of those that 
understand it, and that understand it not. But in all 
this, I surfer not alone ; every writer has the same dif- 
ficulties, and, perhaps, every writer talks of them more 
than he thinks. 

46 You will be pleased to make my compliments to 
all my friends ; and be so kind, at every idle hour, as 
to remember, dear Sir, 

" Yours, &c. 
16 [London^] March 2*5, 17-5.5. " Sam. Johnson. 7, 

Dr. Adams told me, that this scheme of a Bibliothe- 
que was a serious one : for upon his visiting him one 
day, he found his parlour floor covered with parcels of 
foreign and English literary journals, and he told Dr. 
Adams he meant to undertake a Review. " How, Sir. 
(said Dr. Adams,) can you think of doing it alone \ All 
branches of knowledge must be considered in it. Do 
you know Mathematicks I Do you know Natural His- 
tory !" Johnson answered, " Why, Sir, 1 must do as 
well as I can. My chief purpose is to give my coun- 
trymen a view of what is doing in literature upon the 
continent ; and 1 shall have, in a good measure, the 
choice of my subject, for 1 shall select such books as I 
best understand." Dr. Adams suggested, that as Dr. 
Maty had just then finished his Bibliothequc Britanni- 
que, which was a well-executed work, giving foreigners 
an account of British publications, he might, with great 
advantage assume him as an assistant. " He, (said 
Johnson) the little black dog ! I'd throw him into tin 
Thames." The scheme, however, w T as dropped. 

In one of his little memorandum-books 1 find the fol- 
lowing hints for his intended Review or Literary Jour- 
nal ; " The Annals of Literature, foreign as well as 
domestic. Imitate Le Clerk — Bayle— Barbeyrac. In- 


felicity of Journals in England. A\ T orks of the learned. 1755. 
We cannot take in all. Sometimes copy from foreign JT^ 
Journalists. Always tell." 46. 


" sir, March 29, 17-55. 

" 1 have sent some parts of my Dictionary, such 
as were at hand, for your inspection. The favour which 
1 beg is, that if you do not like them, you will say noth- 
ing. I am, Sir, 

" Your most affectionate humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 



" sir, Norfolk-street, April 23, 1755. 

" The part of your Dictionary which you have 
favoured me with the sight of has given me such an idea 
of the whole, that I most sincerely congratulate the pub- 
lick upon the acquisition of a work long wanted, and 
now executed with an industry, accuracy, and judge- 
ment, equal to the importance of the subject. You 
might, perhaps, have chosen one in which your genius 
would have appeared to more advantage, but you could 
not have fixed upon any other in which your labours 
would have done such substantial service to the present 
age and to posterity. 1 am glad that your health has 
supported the application necessary to the performance 
of so vast a task ; and can undertake to promise you as 
one (though perhaps the only) reward of it, the approba- 
tion and thanks of every well-wisher to the honour of 
the English language. I am, with the greatest regard, 

" Sir, 
" Your most faithful and 
" Most affectionate humble servant, 

" Tho. Birch." 

Mr. Charles Burnev, who has since distinguished 
himself so much in the science of Musick, and obtained 
a Doctor's degree from the University of Oxford, had 
been driven from the capital by bad health, and was now 
residing at Lynne Regis in Norfolk. He had been so 

vol. i. 29 


1755. much delighted with Johnson's Rambler, and the plan 
Ieam °f ms Dictionary, that when the great work wasannounc- 
46. ' ed in the news-papers as nearly finished, he wrote to 
Dr. Johnson, begging to be informed when and in what 
manner his Dictionary would be published ; intreating, 
if it should be by subscription, or he should have any 
books at his own disposal, to be favoured with six 
copies for himself and friends. 

In answer to this application, Dr. Johnson wrote the 
following letter, of which (to use Dr. Burney's own 
words) " if it be remembered that it was written to an 
obscure young man, who at this time had not much 
distinguished himself even in his own profession, but 
whose name could never have reached the authour of 
The Rambler, the politeness and urbanity may be 
opposed to some of the stories which have been lately 
circulated of Dr. Johnson's natural rudeness and fero- 

" SIR, 

"If you imagine that by delaying my answer I 
intended to shew any neglect of the notice with which 
you have favoured me, you will neither think justly of 
yourself nor of me. Your civilities were offered with 
too much elegance not to engage attention ; and I 
have too much pleasure in pleasing men like you, not 
to feel very sensibly the distinction which you have 
bes'towed upon me. 

" Few consequences of my endeavours to please or 
to benefit mankind have delighted me more than your 
friendship thus voluntarily offered, which now I have 
it 1 hope to keep, because 1 hope to continue to de- 
serve it. 

" I have no Dictionaries to dispose of for myself, 
but shall be glad to have you direct your friends to 
Mr. Dodsley, because it was by his recommendation 
that 1 was employed in the work. 

" When you have leisure to think again upon me 
let me be favoured with another letter ; and another 
yet, when you have looked into my Dictionary, if 


you find faults,! shall endeavour to mend them; if 1755. 
you find none, I shall think you blinded by kind par- jjEtat! 
tiality : but to have made you partial in his favour, 46. 
will very much gratify the ambition of, Sir, 

" Your most obliged 

;; And most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 
•' Gougk-square, Fleet-street, April 8, 17-3<3." 

Mr. Andrew Millar, bookseller in the Strand, took 
the principal charge of conducting the publication of 
.Johnson's Dictionary ; and as the patience of the pro- 
prietors was repeatedly tried and almost exhausted, by 
their expecting that the work would be completed 
within the time which Johnson had sanguinely suppos- 
ed, the learned authour was often goaded to dispatch, 
more especially as he had received all the copy-money, 
by different drafts, a considerable time before he had 
finished his task. When the messenger who cariied 
the last sheet to Millar returned, Johnson asked him, 
" Well, what did he say 1" — " Sir, (answered the mes- 
senger) he said, thank God I have done with him." 
" I am glad (replied Johnson, with a smile,) that he 
thanks God for any thing." 7 It is remarkable, that 
those with whom Johnson chiefly contracted for his 
literary labours were Scotchmen, Mr. Millar and Mr. 
Strahan. Millar, though himself no great judge of lit- 
erature, had good sense enough to have for his friends 
very able men to give him their opinion and advice in 
the purchase of copy-right ; the consequence of which 
was his acquiring a very large fortune, with great liber- 
ality. Johnson said of him, " I respect Millar, Sir ; 
he has raised the price of literature." The same praise 
may be justly given to Panckoucke, the eminent book- 
seller of Paris. Mr. Strahan's liberality, judgement, 
and success, are well known. 

Sir John Hawkins, p. 341, inserts two notes as having passed formally between 
Andrew Millar and Johnson, to the above effect. I am assured this was not the 
case, hi the way of incidental remark it was a pleasant play of raillery. To have 
deliberately written notes in such terms would have been morose. 



46. ' " SIR, 

" It has been long observed, that men do not sus- 
pect faults which they do not commit ; your own ele- 
gance of manners, and punctuality of complaisance, did 
not surfer you to impute to me that negligence of which 
I was guilty, and which 1 have not since atoned. I 
received both your letters, and received them with 
pleasure proportionate to the esteem which so short an 
acquaintance strongly impressed, and which I hope to 
confirm by nearer knowledge, though I am afraid that 
gratification will be for a time withheld. 

I have, indeed, published my Book, 3 of which I beg 
to know your father's judgement, and yours; and 1 have 
now staid long enough to watch its progress in the 
world. It has, you see, no patrons, and, I think, has 
yet had no opponents, except the criticks of the coffee- 
house, whose outcries are soon dispersed into the air, 
and are thought on no more : from this, therefore, I 
am at liberty, and think of taking the opportunity of 
this interval to make an excursion, and why not then 
into Lincolnshire ? or, to mention a stronger attrac- 
tion, why not to dear Mr. Langton ? I will give the 
true reason, which I know you will approve :— I have 
a mother more than eighty years old, who has counted 
the days to the publication of my book, in hopes of see- 
ing me ; and to her, if I can disengage myself here, I 
resolve to go. 

" As 1 know, dear Sir, that to delay my visit for a 
reason like this, will not deprive me of your esteem, I 
beg it may not lessen your kindness. I have very sel- 
dom received an offer of friendship which I so earnestly 
desire to cultivate and mature. I shall rejoice to hear 
from you, till I can see you, and will see you as soon 
as 1 can ; for when the duty that calls me to Lichfield 
is discharged, my inclination will carry me to Langton. 
I shall delight to hear the ocean roar, or see the stars 
twinkle, in the company of men to whom Nature does 
not spread her volumes or utter her voice in vain, 

? His Dictionary. 


* Do not, dear Sir, make the slowness of this letter 1755. 
a precedent for delay, or imagine that I approved the ^t^ 
incivility that 1 have committed ; for 1 have known 46. 
you enough to love you, and sincerely to wish a fur- 
ther knowledge ; and 1 assure you, once more, that to 

live in a house that contains such a father and such a 
son, will be accounted a very uncommon degree of 
pleasure, by, dear Sir, your most obliged, and 

" Most humble servant, 

• May 6, 175o. " Sam. Johnson, " 


" I am grieved that you should think me capable 
of neglecting your letters ; and beg you will never ad- 
mit any such suspicion again. I purpose to come down 
next week, if you shall be there ; or any other week, 
that shall be more agreeable to you. Therefore let me 
know. I can stay this visit but a week, but intend to 
make preparations for a longer stay next time ; being 
resolved not to lose sight of the University. How goes 
Apollonius \ 9 Don't let him be forgotten. Some things 
of this kind must be done, to keep us up. Pay my 
compliments to Mr. Wise, and all my other friends. ! 
think to come to Kettel-Hall. 1 

" I am, Sir, 

" Your most affectionate, &c. 
" [London,"] May 13, \755. " Sam. Johnson." 

''' DEAR SIR, 

" It is strange how many things will happen to 
intercept every pleasure, though it [be] only that of 
two friends meeting together. I have promised myself 
every day to inform you when you might expect me at 
Oxford, and have not been able to fix a time. The 

'> " A translation of Apollonius Rhodius was now intended by Mr. Warton.'' 

1 [Kettel-Hall is an ancient tenement built about the year 1615, by Dr. Ralpb 
Kettel, President of Trinity College, for the accommodation of Commoners of that 
Society. It adjoins the College : and was a few years ago converted into a pri- 
vate house. M.J 


1755. time, however, is, I think, at last, come ; and I promise 
^^ myself to repose in Kettel-Hall, one of the first nights 
46. ' of the next week. I am afraid my stay with you can- 
not be long ; but what is the inference ? We must 
endeavour to make it chearful. 1 wish your brother 
could meet us, that we might go and drink tea with 
Mr. Wise in a body. 1 hope he will be at Oxford, or 
at his nest of British and Saxon antiquities. 1 I shall 
expect to see Spencer finished, and many other things 
begun. Dodsley is gone to visit the Dutch. The Dic- 
tionary sells well. The rest of the world goes on as it 
did. Dear Sir, 

" Your most affectionate, &c. 
*' [London,'] June 10, 1J55. " Sam. Johnson." 


" To talk of coming to you, and not yet to come, 
has an air of trifling which 1 would not willingly have 
among you ; and which, 1 believe, you will not will- 
ingly impute to me, when 1 have told you, that since 
my promise, two of our partners 3 are dead, and that I 
was solicited to suspend my excursion till we could 
recover from our confusion. 

" I have not laid aside my purpose ; for every day 
makes me more impatient of staying from you. But 
death, you know, hears not supplications, nor pays any 
regard to the convenience of mortals. I hope now to 
see you next week ; but next week is but another 
name for to morrow, which has been noted for promis- 
ing and deceiving. 

" I am, &c. 
" [London,] June 24, 175.5. " Sam. Johnson." 



" I told you that among the manuscripts are 
some things of Sir Thomas More. I beg you to pass 
an. hour in looking on them, and procure a transcript 

2 " At Ellsfield, a village three miles from Oxford." 
s " Booksellers concerned in liis Dictionary." 


of the ten or twenty first lines of each, to be compared 1755. 
with what I have ; that I may know whether they are ^Q 
yet published. The manuscripts are these : 46. 

" Catalogue of Bodl. MS. pag. 122. F. 3. Sir Tho- 
mas More. 

1. Fall of Angels. 2. Creation and fall of mankind. 
3. Determination of the Trinity lor the rescue of man- 
kind. 4. Five lectures of our Saviour's passion, i. 
Of the institution of the sacrament, three lectures. 6. 
How to receive the blessed body of our Lord sacra- 
mentally. 7. Neomenia, the new moon. 8. De tris- 
titia, tcediO) pavore, et oratione Christi unle captionem 

" Catalogue, pag. \5\. Life of Sir Thomas More. 
Qu. Whether Hoper's ? Pag. 363. De resignations 
Magni Sigilli in manus Regis per D. Thomam Morum. 
Fag. 36*4. Mori Defensio Moriw. 

" If you procure the young gentleman in the li- 
brary to write out what you think fit to be written, I 
will send to Mr. Prince the bookseller to pay him 
what you shall think proper. 

" Be pleased to make my compliments to Mr. Wise. 
and all my friends. 1 am, Sir, 

" Your affectionate, &c. 
■' F London^] Aug. 7, 17j«3. " Sam. Johnson/* 

The Dictionary, with a Grammar and History of the 
English Language, being now at length published, in 
two volumes folio, the world contemplated with won- 
der so stupendous a work atchieved by one man, while 
other countries had thought such undertakings fit onlv 
for whole academies. Vast as his powers were, I can- 
not but think that his imagination deceived him, when 
he supposed that by constant application he might 
have performed the task in three years. Let the Pre- 
face be attentively perused, in which "is given, in a 
clear, strong, and glowing style, a comprehensive, yet 
particular view of what he had done; and it will be 
evident, that the time he employed upon it was com- 
paratively short. 1 am unwilling to swell my book 
with, long quotation from what is in every body's 

232 THE LIFE Oi 

1755. hands, and I believe there are few prose compositions 
Mtut. m tne ^ n § Msn language that are read with more de- 
46. light, or are more impressed upon the memory, than 
that preliminary discourse. One of its excellencies 
has always struck me with peculiar admiration ; I mean 
the perspicuity with which he has expressed abstract 
scientifick notions. As an instance of this, 1 shall 
quote the following sentence : " When the radical idea 
branches out into parallel ramifications, how can a con- 
secutive series be formed of senses in their own nature 
collateral I" We have here an example of what has 
been often said, and I believe with justice, that there 
is for every thought a certain nice adaptation of words 
which none other could equal, and which, when a man 
has been so fortunate as to hit, he has attained, in that 
particular case, the perfection of language. 

The extensive reading which was absolutely neces* 
sary for the accumulation of authorities, and which 
alone may accountfor Johnson's retentive mindbeingen- 
riched with a very large and various store of knowledge 
and imagery, must have occupied several years. The 
Preface furnishes an eminent instance of a double tal- 
ent, of which Johnson was fully conscious. Sir Joshua 
Reynolds heard him sav, " There are two things which 
I am confident I can do very well : one is an intro- 
duction to any literary work, stating what it is to con- 
tain, and how it should be executed in the most per- 
fect manner ; the other is a conclusion, shewing from 
various causes why the execution has not been equal 
to what the authour promised to himself and to the 

How should puny scribblers be abashed and disap- 
pointed, when they find him displaying a perfect theory 
of lexicographical excellence, yet at the same time 
candidly and modestlv allowing that he " had not sat- 
isfied his own expectations." Here was a fair occasion 
for the exercise of Johnson's modesty, when he was 
called upon to compare his own arduous performance, 
not with those of other individuals, (in which case his 
inflexible regard to truth would have been violated 
had he affected diffidence,) but with speculative perfec- 

DR. JOHNSON, 2:33 

tion ; as he, who can outstrip all his competitors in the 1755. 
race, may yet be sensible of his deficiency when he runs jgj^ 
against time. Well might he say, that " the English 46. 
Dictionary was written with little assistance of the 
learned ;" for he told me, that the only aid which he 
received was a paper containing twenty etymologies, 
sent to him by a person then unknown, who he was 
afterwards informed was Dr. Pearce, Bishop of Ro- 
chester. The etymologies, though they exhibit learn- 
ing and judgement, are not, I think, entitled to the first 
praise amongst the various parts of this immense work. 
The definitions have always appeared to me such aston- 
ishing proofs of acuteness of intellect and precision of 
language, as indicate a genius of the highest rank. 
This it is which marks the superiour excellence of 
Johnson's Dictionary over others equally or even more 
voluminous, and must have made it a work of much, 
greater mental labour than mere Lexicons, or Word- 
Books, as the Dutch call them. They, who will make 
the experiment of trying how they can define a few 
words of whatever nature, will soon be satisfied of the 
unquestionable justice of this observation, which I can 
assure my readers is founded upon much study, and 
Upon communication with more minds than my own. 

A few of his definitions must be admitted to be er- 
roneous. Thus, Windward and Leezmrd, though di- 
rectly of opposite meaning, are defined identically the 
same way ; + as to which inconsiderable specks it is 
enough to observe, that his Preface announces that he 
was aware there might be many such in so immense a 
work ; nor was he at all disconcerted when an instance 
was pointed out to him. A lady once asked him how 
he came to define Pastern the knee of a horse : instead 
of making an elaborate defence, as she expected, he 
at once answered, " Ignorance, Madam, pure igno- 
rance." His definition of Network has been often 
quoted with sportive malignity, as obscuring a thing in 
itself very plain. But to these frivolous censures no 

4 [He owns in his preface the deficiency of the technical part of his work ; and 
lie said, he should be much obliged to me for definitions of musical terms for hie 
next edition, which he did not live to superintend. B. 1 

VOL. I. 30 

9-3 4t THE LIFE OF 

1755. other answer is necessary than that with which we are 
]£{^t finished by his own Preface. " To explain, requires 
46. the use of terms less abstruse than that which is to be 
explained, and such terms cannot always be found. 
For as nothing can be proved but by supposing some- 
thing intuitively known, and evident without proof, so 
nothing can be defined but by the use of words too 
plain to admit of definition. Sometimes easier words 
are changed into harder ; as burial, into sepulture ov in- 
terment ; dry, into desiccative ; dryness, into siccity, or 
aridity ; Jit, into paroxism ; for, the easiest word, what- 
ever it be, can never be translated into one more easy." 
His introducing his own opinions, and even preju- 
dices under general definitions of words, while at the 
same time the original meaning of the words is not ex- 
plained, as his Tor//, Whig, Pension, Oats, Excise,* and 
a few more, cannot be fully defended, and must be 
placed to the account of capricious and humourous in- 
dulgence. Talking to me upon this subject when we 
were at Ashbourne in 1777, he mentioned a still strong- 
er instance of the predominance of his private feelings 
in the composition of this work, than any now to be 
found in it. " You know, Sir, Lord Gower forsook 
the old Jacobite interest. When I came to the word 
Renegado, after telling that it meant 6 one who deserts 
to the enemy, a revolter/ 1 added, Sometimes we say a 
Gower. Thus it went to the press : but the printer 
had more wit than I, and struck it out." 

' He thus defines Excise ' A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged 
not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom Ex- 
cise is paid." The commissioners of Excise being offended by this severe reflec- 
tion, consulted Mr. Murray, then Attorney General, to know whether redress 
could be legally obtained. I wished to have procured for my readers a copy of 
the opinion which he gave, and which may now be justly considered as history : 
but the mysterious secresy of office it seems would not permit it. I am, however, 
informed, bv very good authority, that its import was, that the passage might be 
considered as actionable ; but that it would be more prudent in the board not to 
prosecute. Johnson never made the smallest alteration in this passage. We find 
he still retained his early prejudice against Excise ; for in " The Idler, No. 65," 
there is the following very extraordinary paragraph : " The authenticity of Clar- 
endan's history, though printed with the sanction of one of the first Universities 
of the world, had not an unexpected manuscript been happily discovered, would, 
with the help of factious credulity, have been brought into question, by the two 
lowest of all human beings, a Scribbler for a party, and a commissioner of Ex- 
cise." The persons to whom he alludes were Mr, John Oldmixon, and Georgr 
Ducket, Esq. 


Lot it, however, be remembered, that this indulgence 17&5 
does not display itself only in sarcasm towards others, ^T^ 
but sometimes in playful allusion to the notions com- 4^ 
inoidy entertained of his own laborious task. Thus ; 
" Grub~street % the name of a street in London, much 
inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and 
temporary poems; whence any mean production is 
called Grub-street^ — " Lexicographer, a writer of dic- 
tionaries, a harmless drudge " 

At the time when he was concluding- his ver 
quent Preface, Johnson's mind appears to have been in 
such a state of depression, that we cannot contemplate, 
without wonder the vigorous and splendid thoughts 
which so highly distinguish that performance. " I 
says he) may surely be contented without the praise 
of perfection, which if I could obtain in this gloom of 
solitude, what would it avail me I 1 have protracted my 
work till most of those whom I wished to please have 
sunk into the grave ; and success and miscarriage arc 
empty sounds. I therefore dismiss it with frigid tran- 
quillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or 
from praise." That this indifference was rather a tem- 
porary than an habitual feeling, appears, 1 think, from 
his letters to Mr. Warton ; and however he may have 
been affected for the moment, certain it is that the 
honours which his great work procured him, both at 
home and abroad, were very grateful to him. His 
friend the Earl of Corke and Orrery, being at Florence, 
presented it to the Academia delta Crusca. Thai 
Academy sent Johnson their Vocabulario, and the 
French Academy sent him their Dictionnaire, which 
Mr. Langton had the pleasure to convey to him. 

It must undoubtedly seem strange, that the conclu- 
sion of his Preface should be expressed in terms so de- 
sponding, when it is considered that the authour was 
then only in his forty-sixth year. Hut we must ascrib. 
its gloom to that miserable dejection of spirits to which 
he was constitutionally subject, and which was aggra- 
vated by the death of his wife two years before. I 
have heard it ingeniously observed by a lady of rank 
and elegance, that " his melancholy was then at its 


1755. meridian." It pleased God to grant him almost thirty 

^^ years of life after this time ; and once when he was in 

46. ' a placid frame of mind, he was obliged to own to me 

that he had enjoyed happier days, and had many more 

friends, since that gloomy hour, than before. 

It is a sad saying, that " most of those whom he wish- 
ed to please had sunk into the grave ;" and his case at 
forty-five was singularly unhappy, unless the circle of 
his friends was very narrow. I have often thought, 
that as longevity is generally desired, and I believe, 
generally expected, it would be wise to be continually 
adding to the number of our friends, that the loss of 
some may be supplied by others. Friendship, " the 
wine of life," should, like a well stocked cellar, be thus 
continually renewed ; and it is consolatory to think, 
that although we can seldom add what will equal the 
generous first-growths of our youth, yet friendship be- 
comes insensibly old in much less time than is com- 
monly imagined, and not many years are required to 
make it very mellow and pleasant. Warmth will, no 
doubt, make a considerable difference. Men of affec- 
tionate temper and bright fancy will coalesce a great 
deal sooner than those who are cold and dull. 

The proposition which I have now endeavoured to 
illustrate was, at a subsequent period of his life, the 
opinion of Johnson himself. He said to Sir Joshua 
Reynolds, " If a man does not make new acquaintance 
as he advances through life, he will soon find himself 
left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in 
constant repair" 

The celebrated Mr. Wilkes, whose notions and hab- 
its of life were very opposite to his, but who was ever 
eminent for literature and vivacity, sallied forth with a 
little Jen a" Esprit upon the following passage in his 
Grammar of the English Tongue, prefixed to the Dic- 
tionary : " // seldom, perhaps never, begins any but 
the first syllable." In an essay printed in " the Pub- 
lick Advertiser," this lively writer enumerated many 
instances in opposition to this remark ; for example, 
" The authour of this observation must be a man of 
a quick appre-hensio?i, and of a most compre-hcnskc 


genius." The position is undoubtedly expressed with 1755. 
too much latitude. JEtat. 

This light sally, we may suppose, made no great im- 46. 
pression on our Lexicographer ; for we find that he did 
not alter the passage till many years afterwards. 6 

He had the pleasure of being treated in a very dif- 
ferent manner by his old pupil Mr. Garrick, in the fol- 
lowing complimentary Epigram : 

" On Johnson's Dictionary. 

" Talk of war with a Briton, he'll boldly advance, 
" That one English soldier will beat ten of France ; 
" Would we alter the boast from the sword to the pen, 
" Our odds are still greater, still greater our men : 
,{ In the deep mines of science though Frenchmen may 

•' Can their strength be compard to Locke, Newton, 

and Boyle ? 
" Let them rally their heroes, send forth all their pow'rs, 
" Their verse-men and prose-men, then match them 

with ours ! 
" First Shakspeare and Milton, like Gods in the fight. 
" Have put their whole drama and epick to flight ; 
"In satires, epistles, and odes, would they cope, 
; ' Their numbers retreat before Dryden and Pope ; 
" And Johnson, well arm'd like a hero of yore, 
" Has beat forty French, 7 and will beat forty more 1" 

Johnson this year gave at once a proof of his benev- 
olence, quickness of apprehension, and admirable art of 
composition, in the assistance which he gave to Mr. 
Zachariah Williams, father of the blind lady whom he 
had humanely received under his roof. Mr. Williams 
had followed the profession of physick in Yv r ales ; but 
having a very strong propensity to the study of natural 
philosophy, had made many ingenious advances towards 

6 In the third edition, published, in 1773, he left out the words perhaps never, 
and added the following paragraph : 

" It sometimes begins middle or final syllables in words compounded, as block- 
b;ad, or derived from the Latin, as comprehended. 

' The number of the Frencli Academy employed in settling their language. 


1755. a discovery of the longitude, and repaired to London in 
j£^" hopes of obtaining the great parliamentary reward. He 
46. ' failed of success : hut Johnson having made himself 
master of his principles and experiments, wrote for him 
a pamphlet, published in quarto, with the following 
title : " An Account of an Attempt to ascertain the 
Longitude at Sea, by an exact Theory of the variation 
of the Magneticai Needle ; with a 'fable of the Varia- 
tions at the most remarkable Cities in Europe, from 
the year 1660 to 1860."t To diffuse it more exten- 
sively, it was accompanied with an Italian translation 
on the opposite page, which it is supposed was the work 
of Signor Baretti, 8 an Italian of considerable literature, 
who having come to England a few years before, had 
been employed in the capacity both of a language-master 
and an authour, and formed an intimacy with Dr. John- 
son. This pamphlet Johnson presented to the Bod- 
leian Library. 5 On a blank leaf of it is pasted a para- 
graph cut out of a newspaper, containing an account of 
the death and character of Williams, plainly written by 
Johnson. 1 

In Julv this year he had formed some scheme of 
mental improvement, the particular purpose ot which 
does not appear. But we find in his " Prayers and 
Meditations," p. 2.5, a prayer entitled, " On the Study 
of Philosophy, as an instrument of living ;" and after 
it follows a note, " This study was not pursued." 

On the 13th of the same month he wrote in his 
Journal the following scheme of life, for Sunday : 
" Having lived" (as he with tenderness of conscience 

3 [This ingenious foreigner, who was a native of Piedmont, came to England 
about the year 1753, and died in London May 5, 1789. A very candid and judi- 
cious account of him and his works, beginning with the words, " So much asperit," 
and %vritten, it is believed, by a distinguished dignitary in the church, may be 
found in the Gentleman's Magazine, for that year, p. 469. M.] 

9 See note by Mr. Warton, p. 215. [from which it appears that " 12th" in the 
iiest note means the 12th of July, 1755. M.] 

1 " On Saturday the 12th, about twelve at night, died Mr. Zachariah Williams, 
in his eighty-third year, after an illness of eight months, in full possession of his 
mental faculties. He has been long known to philosophers and seamen for his 
skill in magnetism, and his proposal to ascertain the longitude by a peculiar sys- 
tem of the variation of the compass. He was a man of industry indefatigable, of 
conversation inoffensive, patient of adversity and disease, eminently sober, tern; 
ate, and pious ; and worthy to have ended life with better fortune." 


expresses himself) " not without an habitual reverence 1756. 
for the Sabbath, yet without that attention to its relig- jgjCJ* 
ious duties which Christianity requires ;" 47.' 

" 1. To rise early, and in order to it, to go to sleep 
earl) - on Saturday. 

" c 2. To Use some extraordinary devotion in the 

" ;3. To examine the tenour of my life, and particu- 
larly the last week ; and to mark my advances i 11 relig- 
ion, or recession from it. 

" 4. To read the Scripture methodically with such 
helps as are at hand. 

" 5. To 20 to church twice. 

o .... 

" 6. To read books of Divinity, either speculative 
or practical. 

" 7. To instruct my family. 

" 8. To wear off by meditation any worldly soil con- 
tracted in the week." 

In 17«36 Johnson found that the great fame of his 
Dictionary had not set him above the necessity of 
" making provision for the clay that was passing over 
him." 2 No royal or noble patron extended a munifi- 
cent hand to give independence to the man who had 
conferred stability on the language of his country. We 
may fe( 1 indignant that there should have been such 
unworthy neglect ; but we must, at the same time, 
congratulate ourselves, when we consider, that to this 
very neglect, operating to rouse the natural indolence 
of his constitution, we owe many valuable productions, 
which otherwise, perhaps, might never have appeared. 

He had spent, during the progress of the work, the 
money for which he had contracted to write his Dic- 
tionary. We have seen that the reward of his labour 
was only fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds ; and 
when the expence of amanuenses and paper, and oth< 1 
articles, are deducted, his clear profit was very inccn- 

2 [He was so far frcm being " set above the necessity of making provision foi 
the day that was passing over him," that lie appears to have been in this year in 
great pecuniary distress, having been arrested for debt ; on which occasion hi-> 
friend, Samuel Richardson, became his surety. See a lecter from Johnson to him. 
on that subject, dated Ft-b. 19, 1756 Richardson's Cos j ? 

285. M.I 

240 THE LIFE 01 

1756. siderable. I once said to him, " I am sorry, Sir, you 
did not get more for your Dictionary." His answer 
was, " 1 am sorry too. But it was very well. The 
booksellers are generous liberal-minded men." He, 
upon all occasions, did ample justice to their character 
in this respect. He considered them as the patrons of 
literature ; and, indeed, although they have eventually 
been considerable gainers by his Dictionary, it is to 
them that we owe its having been undertaken and car- 
ried through at the risk of great expence, for they were 
not absolutely sure of being indemnified. 

On the first day of this year 3 we find from his pri- 
vate devotions, that he had then recovered from sick- 
ness,* and in February that his eye was restored to its 
use. 5 The pious gratitude with which he acknowl- 
edges mercies upon every occasion is very edifying ; as 
is the humble submission which he breathes, when it: 
is the will of his heavenly Father to try him with af- 
flictions. As such dispositions become the state of 
man here, and are the true effects of religious disci- 
pline, we cannot but venerate in Johnson one of the 
most exercised minds that our holy religion hath ever 
formed. If there be any thoughtless enough to sup- 
pose such exercise the weakness of a great understand-> 
ing, let them look up to Johnson, and be convinced 
that what he so earnestly practised must have a rational 

His works this year were, an abstract or epitome, in 
octavo, of his folio Dictionary, and a few essays in a 
monthly publication, entitled, "The Universal Vis- 
iter." Christopher Smart, with whose unhappy vacil- 
lation of mind he sincerely sympathised, was one of the 
stated undertakers of this miscellany ; and it was to 
assist him that Johnson sometimes employed his pen, 

[In April in this year, Johnson wrote a letter to Dr. Joseph Warton, in con- 
. ijuence of having read a few pages of that gentleman's newly published " Es- 
■>ay on the Genius and Writings of Pope." The only paragraph in it that respects 
Johnson's personal history is this : " For my part I have not lately done much. 
1 have been ill in the winter, and my eye has been inflamed ; but I please myself 
with the hopes of doing many things, with which I have long pleased and deceived 
myself!" Memoirs of -Dr. J. Warton, &c. 4to. 1806. M.] 

'• Pravers and Meditation?, 6 Ibid, 27. 


AH the essays marked with two asterisks have been 1756. 
ascribed to him ; but 1 am confident, from internal ev- jJT,^ 
idence, that of these, neither " 'The Lite of Chaucer," 47. 
" Reflections on the Mate of Portugal," nor an " Essay 
on Architecture," were written by him. 1 am equally 
confident, upon the same evidence, that he wrote 
*• Further Thoughts on Agriculture ;"*}■ being the se- 
quel of a very inferiour essay on the same subject, and 
which, though carried on as if by the same hand, is 
both in thinking and expression so far above it, and so 
strikingly peculiar, as to leave no doubt of its true pa- 
rent ; and that he also wrote " A Dissertation on the 
State of Literature and Authours,"-j* and " A Disser- 
tation on the Epitaphs written by Pope."* The last 
of these, indeed, he afterwards added to his " Idler." 
Why the essavs truly written by him are marked in the 
same manner with some which he did not write, I can- 
not explain ; but with deference to those who have 
ascribed to him the three essays which I have rejected, 
they want all the characteristical marks of Johnsonian 

Me engaged also to superintend and contribute large- 
ly to another monthly publication, entitled " The Lit- 
erary Magazine, or Universal Review ;"* the 
first number of which came out in May this vear. 
What were his emoluments from this undertaking, and 
what other writers were employed in it, I have not 
discovered. He continued to write in it, with inter- 
missions, till the fifteenth number ; and I think that he 
never gave better proofs of the force, acuteness, and 
vivacity of his mind, than in this miscellany, whether 
we consider his original essays, or his reviews of the 
works of others. The " Preliminary Address"*)* to the 
publick, is a proof how this great man could embellish, 
with the graces of superiour composition, even so trite 
a thing as the plan of a magazine. 

His orioinal essavs are. " An Introduction to the 
Political State of Great-13ritain ;"f " Remarks on the 
Militia Bill ;"t " Observations on his Britannick Maj- 
esty's Treaties with the Empress of Russia and the 
Landgrave of Hesse Cassel :"*r :; Observations on the 

vol. t. :> i 


1756. Present State of Affairs ;"f and, " Memoirs of Ffeder- 
MtM. lc ^ ^* ^ n o °^ Prussia. w f In all these he displays 
47. extensive political knowledge and sagacity, expressed 
with uncommon energy and perspicuity, without any 
of those words which he sometimes took a pleasure in 
adopting, in imitation of Sir Thomas Browne ; of whose 
" Christian Morals" he this year gave an edition, with 
his " Life"* prefixed to it, which is one of Johnson's 
best biographical performances. In one instance only 
in these essays has he indulged his Brownism. Dr. 
Robertson, the historian, mentioned it tome, as having 
at once convinced him that Johnson was the authour 
of the " Memoirs of the King of Prussia." Speaking 
of the pride which the old King, the father of his hero, 
took in being master of the tallest regiment in Europe, 
he says, " To review this towering regiment was his 
daily pleasure ; and to perpetuate it was so much his 
care, that when he met a tall woman he immediately 
commanded one of his Titanian retinue to marry her, 
that they might propagate procerittj." For this Anglo- 
Latian word procerittj, Johnson had, however, the 
authority of Addison. 

His reviews are of the following books : " Birch's 
History of the Royal Society ;"•}" " Murphy's Gray's- 
Inn Journal ;"-j* " YY arton's Essay on the Writings and 
Genius of Pope, Vol. I."f " Hampton's Translation of 
Polybius ;"■]* " Black well's Memoirs of the Court of 
Augustus ;"f " Russell's Natural History of Alep- 
po ;"•]" " Sir Isaac Newton's Arguments in Proof of a 
Deity ;"f " Borlase's History of the Isles of Scilly ;"| 
" Holme's Experiments on Bleaching ;"*f " Browne's 
Christian Morals ;"| " Hales on distilling Sea-Water, 
Y'entilators in Ships, and curing an ill Taste in Milk ;"f 
" Lucas's Essay on Waters ;"■(• " Keith's Catalogue of 
the Scottish Bishops ;"f " Browne's History of .Jamai- 
ca ;"| " Philosophical Transactions, Vol. XLlX."f 
" Mrs. Lenox's Translation of Sully's Memoirs ;"* 
" Miscellanies by Elizabeth Harrison ;"f " Evans's 
Map and Account of the Middle Colonies in Amer- 
ica ;"f " Letter on the Case of Admiral Byng • 
• Appeal to the People concerning Admiral Byng 

DR. JOHNSON. % ;* 

" Hanway's Eight Days .Journey, and Essay on Tea;"* J 756. 
' u The Cadet, a Military Treatise ;"f " Some further J£J^ 
Particulars in Relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, 47. 
by a Gentleman of Oxford ;"* " The Conduct of the 
Ministry relating- to the present War impartially exam- 
ined ; v, f " A Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin 
of Evil/'* All these, from internal evidence, were 
written by Johnson : some of them I know he avowed, 
and have marked them with an asterisk accordingly. 
Mr. Thomas Davies indeed, ascribed to him the Re- 
view of Mr. Burke's " Inquiry into the Origin of our 
Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful ;" and Sir John 
Hawkins, with equal discernment, has inserted it in his 
collection of Johnson's works : whereas it has no re- 
semblance to Johnson's composition, and is well known 
to have been written by Mr. Murphy, who has ac- 
knowledged it to me and many others. 

It is worthy of remark, in justice to Johnson's polit- 
ical character, which has been misrepresented as ab- 
jectly submissive to power, that his " Observations on 
the present State of Affairs," glow with as animated a 
spirit of constitutional liberty as can be found any 
where. Thus he begins : " The time is now come, in 
which every Englishman expects to be informed of the 
national affairs ; and in which he has a right to have 
that expectation gratified. For, whatever may be urg- 
ed by Ministers, or those whom vanity or interest make 
the followers of ministers, concerning- the necessity of 
confidence in our governours, and the presumption of 
prying with profane eyes into the recesses of policy, it 
is evident that this reverence can be claimed only by 
counsels yet unexecuted, and projects suspended in de- 
liberation. But when a design has ended in miscarri- 
age or success, when every eye and every ear is witness 
to general discontent, or general satisfaction, it is then 
a proper time to disentangle confusion and illustrate 
obscurity ; to shew by what causes every event was 
produced, and in what effects it is likely to terminate ; 
to lay down with distinct particularity what rumour 
always huddles in general exclamation, or perplexes 
by indigested narratives ; to shew whence happiness 


1756. or calamity is derived, and whence it may be expected ; 
j£ t . dtt and honestly to lay before the people what inquiry can 
47. gather of the past, and conjecture can estimate of the 

Here we have it assumed as an incontrovertible 
principle, that in this country the people are the super- 
intendants of the conduct and measures of those by 
whom government is administered ; of the beneficial 
effect of which the present reign afforded an illustrious 
example, when addresses from all parts of the kingdom 
controuled an audacious attempt to introduce a new 
power subversive of the crown. 

A still stronger proof of his patriotick spirit appears 
in his review of an " Essay on Waters, by Dr. Lucas," 
of whom, after describing him as a man well known to 
the world for his daring defiance of power, when he 
thought it exerted on the side of wrong, he thus speaks : 
" The Irish ministers drove him from his native coun- 
try by a proclamation, in which they charge him with 
crimes of which they never intended to be called to 
the proof, and oppressed him by methods equally irre- 
sistible by guilt and innocence. 

" Let the man thus driven into exile, for having 
been the friend of his country, be received in every 
other place as a confessor of liberty ; and let the tools 
of power be taught in time, that they may rob, but 
cannot impoverish." 

Some of his reviews in this Magazine are very short 
accounts of the pieces noticed, and I mention them 
only that Dr. Johnson's opinion of the works may be 
known ; but many of them are examples of elaborate 
criticism, in the most masterly style. In his review of 
the " Memoirs of the Court of Augustus," he has the 
resolution to think and speak from his own mind, re- 
gardless of the cant transmitted from age to age, in 
praise of the ancient Romans. Thus : " 1 know not 
why any one but a school-boy in his declamation should 
whine over the Commonwealth of Rome, which grew 
great only by the misery of the rest of mankind. The 
Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich, grew 
corrupt ; and in their corruption sold the lives and 


freedoms of themselves, and of one another." Again, 1756. 
" A people, who while they were poor robbed man- 2ta£ 
kind ; and as soon as they became rich, robbed one 47. 
another." In his review of the Miscellanies in prose 
and verse, published by Elizabeth Harrison, but writ- 
ten by many hands, he gives an eminent proof at once 
of his orthodoxy and candour. " The authours of the 
essavs in prose seem generally to have imitated, or 
tried to imitate, the copiousness and luxuriance of Mrs. 
Roxve. This, however, is not all their praise ; they 
have laboured to add to her brightness of imagery, her 
purity of sentiments. The poets have had Dr. Watts 
before their eyes ; a writer, who, if he stood not in the 
first class of genius, compensated that defect by a ready 
application of his powers to the promotion of piety. 
The attempt to employ the ornaments of romance in 
the decoration of religion, was, I think, first made by 
Mr. Boijle's Martyrdom of Theodora ; but Boyte's 
philosophical studies did not allow him time for the 
cultivation of style : and the completion of the great 
design was reserved for Mrs. Rome. Dr. Watts was 
one of the first who taught the Dissenters to write and 
speak like other men, by shewing them that elegance 
might consist with piety. They would have both done 
honour to a better society, for they had that charity 
which might well make their failings be forgotten, and 
with which the whole Christian world wish for com- 
munion. They were pure from all the heresies of an 
age, to which every opinion is become a favourite that 
the universal church has hitherto detested ! 

" This praise the general interest of mankind re- 
quires to be given to writers who please and do not 
corrupt, who instruct and do not weary. But to them 
all human eulogies are vain, whom 1 believe applauded 
by angels, and numbered with the just." 

His defence of tea against Mr. Jonas Han way's vio- 
lent attack upon that elegant and popular beverage, 
shews how very well a man of genius can write upon 
the slightest subject, when he writes, as the Italians 
sa\', con amore : 1 suppose no person ever enjoyed with 
more relish the infusion of that fragrant leaf that John- 


1756. son. The quantities which he drank of it at all hours 
jE^ were so great, that his nerves must have been uncom- 
17. monly strong-, not to have been extremely relaxed by 
such an intemperate use of it, He assured me, that 
he never felt the least inconvenience from it ; which 
is a proof that the fault of his constitution was rather a 
too great tension of fibres, than the contrary. Mr. 
Hanway wrote an angry answer to Johnson's review of 
his Essay on Tea, and Johnson, after a full and delib- 
erate pause, made a reply to it ; the only instance, I 
believe, in the whole course of his life, when he conde- 
scended to oppose any thing that was written against 
him. I suppose when he thought of any of his little 
antagonists, he was ever justly aware of the high senti- 
ment of Ajax in Ovid : 

" Iste tul'it pretium jam nunc certaminis hujus^ 
" Qui, chm victus erit, mecum certasse Jeretur." 

But, indeed, the good Mr. Hanway laid himself so 
open to ridicule, that Johnson's animadversions upon 
his attack were chiefly to make sport. 

The generosity with which he pleads the cause of 
Admiral Byng is highly to the honour of his heart and 
spirit. Though Voltaire affects to be witty upon the 
fate of that unfortunate officer, observing that he was 
shot " pour encourage)- les autres" the nation has long 
been satisfied that his life was sacrificed to the political 
fervour of the times. In the vault belonging to the 
Torrington family, in the church of Southill, in Bed- 
fordshire, there is the following Epitaph upon his mon- 
ument, which 1 have transcribed : 


" of publick Justice, 

" The Honourable John Byng, Esq. 

" Admiral of the Blue, 

" Fell a Martyr to political 

" Persecution, 

" March 14, in the Year, 17.57; 

" when Bravery and Loyalty; 

" were insufficient Securities 

-'" for the Life and Honour of 

" A Naval Officer." 

' - 



Johnson's most exquisite critical essay in the Litera- 1756. 
ry Magazine, and indeed any where, is his review of j£T? 
Soame Jenyns's " Inquiry into the Origin of Evil." 47 # ' 
Jenyns was possessed of lively talents, and a style em- 
inently pure and easy, and could very happily play with 
a light subject, either in prose or verse ; but when he 
speculated on that most difficult and excruciating ques- 
tion, the Origin of Evil, he " ventured far beyond his 
depth," and, accordingly, was exposed by Johnson 
both with acute argument and brilliant wit. 1 remem 
ber when the late Mr. Bicknell's humourous perform 
ance, entitled " The Musical Travels of Joel Collyer, 
in which a slight attempt is made to ridicule Johnson, 
was ascribed to Soame Jenyns, " Ha ! (said Johnson) I 
thought I had given him enough of it." 

His triumph over Jenyns is thus described by my 
friend Mr. Courtenay in his " Poetical Review of the 
literary and moral Character of Dr. Johnson ;" a per- 
formance of such merit, that had 1 not been honoured 
with a very kind and partial notice in it, I should echo 
the sentiments of men of the first taste loudlv in its 
praise : 

" When specious sophists with presumption scan 
" The source of evil hidden still from man ; 
44 Revive Arabian tales, and vainly hope 
" To rival St. John, and his scholar Pope : 
44 Though metaphysicks spread the gloom of night, 
44 By reason's star he guides our aching sight ; 
The bounds of knowledge masks, and points the way 
To pathless wastes, where wilder'd sages stray ; 
Where, like a farthing link-boy, Jenyns stands, 
And the dim torch drops from his feeble hands."" 


5 Some time after Dr. Johnson's death there appeared in the news-papers and 
magazines an illiberal and petulant attack upon him, in the form of an Epitaph, 
under the name of Mr. Soame Jenyns, very unworthy of that gentleman, who had 
quietly submitted to the critical lash while Johnson lived. It assumed, as charac- 
temticks of him, all the vulgar circumstances of abuse which had circulated 
amongst the ignorant. It was an unbecoming indulgence of puny resentment, at 
a time when he himself was at a very advanced age, and had a near prospect c^ 
descending to the grave. I was truly sorry for it ; for he was then become ar« 
avowed, and (as my Lord Bishop of London, v. ho had a serious conversation with, 
him on the subject, assures me) a sincere Christian. He could not expect that 
Johnson's numerous friends would patiently bear to have the memory of their 


1756. This year IVJr. William Payne, brother of the re- 
JEtaT s P ec table bookseller of that name, published " An In- 
47. troduction to the Game of Draughts," to which John- 
son contributed a Dedication to the Earl of iiochford,* 
and a Preface,* both of which are admirably adapted 
to the treatise to which they are prefixed. Johnson, I 
believe, did not play at draughts after leaving College, 
by which he suffered ; for it would have afforded him 
an innocent soothing relief from the melancholy which 
distressed him so often. I have heard him regret that 
he had not learnt to play at cards ; and the game of 
draughts we know is peculiarly calculated to fix the at- 
tention without straining it. There is a composure and 
gravity in draughts which insensibly tranquillises the 
mind ; and, accordingly, the Dutch are fond of it, as 
thev are of smoakins;, of the sedative intluence of which, 
though he himself never smoaked, he had a high opin- 
ion. 6 Besides, there is in draughts some exercise of 
the faculties ; and, accordingly, Johnson wishing to 
dignify the subject in his Dedication with what is most 
estimable in it, observes, " Triflers may find or make 
any thing a trifle : but since it is the great character- 
istick of a wise man to see events in their causes, to 
obviate consequences, and ascertain contingencies, your 
Lordship will think nothing a trifle by which the mind 
is inured to caution, foresight, and circumspection." 

As one of the little occasional advantages which he 
did not disdain to take by his pen, as a man whose 

master stigmatized by no mean pen, but that, at least, one would be found to re- 
fort. Accordingly, this unjust and sarcastick Epitaph was met in the same publick 
field by an answer, in terms by no means soft, and such as wanton provocation on- 
Iv could justify : 

" Prepared for a creature not quite dead yet. 

" Here lies a little ugly nauseous elf, 

" Who judging only from its wretched self, 

" Feebly attempted, petulant and vain, 

" The ' Origin of Evil,' to explain. 

" A mighty Genius at this elf displeas'd, 

" With a strong critick grasp the urchin squeez'd. 

" For thirty years its coward spleen it kept, 

'• Till in the dust the mighty Genius slept ; 

" Then stunk and fretted in expiring snuff, 

" And blink'd at Johnson with its last poor puff.'' 

• urnal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 4f . 


profession was literature, he this year accepted of a 17.56. 
guinea from Mr. Robert Dodsley, for writing the in- ^.^ 
traduction to "The London Chronicle/' an evening 47. 
news-paper; and even in so slight a performance ex- 
hibited peculiar talents. This Chronicle still subsists, 
and from what 1 observed, when 1 was abroad, has a 
more extensive circulation upon the Continent than 
any of the English news-papers. It was constantly 
read by Johnson himself; and it is but just to observe, 
that it has all along been distinguished for good" sense, 
accuracy, moderation, and delicacy. 

Another instance of the same nature has been com- 
municated tome by the Reverend Dr. Thomas Camp- 
bell, who has done himself considerable credit b}' his 
own writings. " Sitting with Dr. Johnson one morning 
alone, he asked me if 1 had known Dr. Madden, who 
was authour of the premium-scheme 7 in Ireland. On 
my answering in the affirmative, and also that 1 had for 
some vears lived in his neighbourhood, &c. he begged 
of me that when I returned to Ireland, 1 would endeav- 
our to procure for him a poem of Dr. Madden's called 
" Boulter's Monument." 3 The reason (said he) why 
I wish for it, is this : when Dr. Madden came to Lon- 
don, he submitted that work to my castigation ; and I 
remember I blotted a great many lines, and might have 
blotted many more without making the poem worse. 5 
However, the Doctor was very thankful, and very gen- 

7 [In the College of Dublin, four quarterly examinations of the students are held 
in each year, in various prescribed branches of literature and science ; and premi- 
ums, consisting of books impressed with the College Arms, are adjudged by exam- 
iners to those who have most distinguished themselves in the several classes, after 
a very rigid trial, which lasts two days. This regulation, which has subsisted 
about seventy years, has been attended with the most beneficial effects. 

Dr. Samuel Madden was the first proposer of premiums in that University. 
They were instituted about the year 1734. He was also one of the founders of 
the Dublin Society for the encouragement of arts and agriculture. In addition 
to the premiums which were and are still annually given by that society for this 
purpose, Dr. Madden gave others from his own fund. Hence he was usually 
called " Premium Madden." M.] 

E [Dr. Hugh Boulter, Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of Ireland. He died 
Sept. 27, 1742, at which time he was, for the thirteenth time, one of the Lords 
Justices of that kingdom. Johnson speaks of him in high terms of commendation, 
in his Life of Ambrose Phillips. J. B. — O.] 

9 [Dr. Madden wrote very bad verses. V. those prefixed to Leland's Life oj 
Philip of Macedon. 4to. 1 758. K.] 

vol. t. 


1756. erous, for he gave me ten guineas, which was to me at 

iEtat. ^°^ ^ /w<? tt great sum. 

47. He this year resumed his scheme of giving an edi- 
tion of Shakspeare with notes. He issued Proposals 
of considerable length,' in which he shewed that he 
perfectly well knew what a variety of research such an 
undertaking required ; but his indolence prevented 
him from pursuing it with that diligence which alone 
can collect those scattered facts, that genius, however 
acute, penetrating, and luminous, cannot discover by- 
its own force, it is remarkable, that at this time his 
fancied activity was for the moment so vigorous, that 
he promised his work should be published before 
Christmas, 1757* Yet nine years elapsed before it saw 
the light. His throes in bringing it forth had been se- 
vere and remittent ; and at last we may almost con- 
clude that the Caesarian operation was performed by 
the knife of Churchill, whose upbraiding satire, I dare 
say, made Johnson's friends urge him to dispatch. 

" He for subscribers baits his hook, 

" And takes your cash ; but where 's the book ' 

" No matter where ; wise fear, you know, 

" Forbids the robbing of a foe : 

" But what, to serve our private ends, 

: ' Forbids the cheating of our friends ?" 

About this period he was offered a living of con- 
siderable value in Lincolnshire, if he were inclined to 
enter into holy orders. It was a rectory in the gift of 
Mr. Langton, the father of his much valued friend. 
But he did not accept of it ; partly I believe from a 
conscientious motive, being persuaded that his temper 
and habits rendered him unfit for that assiduous and 
familiar instruction of the vulgar and ignorant, which 
he held to be an essential duty in a clergyman ; and 
partly because his love of a London life was so strong. 
that he would have thought himself an exile in any 
other place, particularly if residing in the country. 
Whoever would wish to see his thoughts upon that 

1 They have been reprinted by Mr. Malone in the Preface to his edition of 

DR. JOHNSON. '231 

subject displayed in their full force, may peruse the 1757. 
Adventurer, Number 126. JEtat. 

In l?o7 it does not appear that he published any 48. 
thing-, except some of those articles in the Literary 
Magazine, which have been mentioned. That maga- 
zine, after Johnson ceased to write in it, gradually de- 
clined, though the popular epithet of Antigallican was 
added to it ; and in .July 17«5S it expired, lie proba- 
bly prepared a part of his Shakspeare this year, and he 
dictated a speech on the subject of an address to the 
Throne, after the expedition to Rochfort, which was 
delivered by one of his friends, I know not in what 
publick meeting. It is printed in the Gentleman's 
Magazine for October 1785 as his, and bears sufficient 
marks of authenticity. 

By the favour of Mr. Joseph Cooper Walker, of the 
Treasury, Dublin, 1 have obtained a copy of the follow- 
ing letter from Johnson to the venerable authour of 
" Dissertations on the History of Ireland." 



" SIR, 

" I have lately, by the favour of Mr. Faulkner, 
seen your account of Ireland, and cannot forbear to 
solicit a prosecution of your design. Sir William Tem- 
ple complains that Ireland is less known than any 
other country, as to its ancient state. The natives have 
had little leisure, and little encouragement for enquiry; 
and strangers, not knowing the language, have had no 


" I have long wished that the Irish literature were 
cultivated. 5 Ireland is known bv tradition to have 


2 [Of this gentleman, who died at his seat at Ballinegare, in the county of Ros- 
common in Ireland, July 1, 1791, in his 82d year, some account may be found in 
the Gentleman's Magazine of that date. M.] 

' The celebrated oratour, Mr. Flood, has shown himself to be of Dr. Johnson's 
opinion ; having by his will bequeathed his estate, after the death of his wife La- 
dy Frances, to the University of Dublin ; " desiring that immediately after the said 
estate shall come into their possession, they shall appoint two professors, one for 
the study of the native Erse or Irish language, and the other for the study of Irish 
antiquities and Irish history, and for the study of any other European language il- 
lustrative of, or auxiliary to, the study of Irish antiquities or Irish history ; and 



J757- been once the seat of piety and learning ; and surely it 
Misd. would be very acceptable to all those who are curious 
48. either in the original of nations, or the affinities of lan- 
guages, to be further informed of the revolution of a 
people so ancient, and once so illustrious. 

" What relation there is between the Welsh and 
Irish language, or between the language of Ireland and 
that of Biscay, deserves inquiry. Of' these provincial 
and unextended tongues, it seldom happens that more 
than one are understood by any one man ; and, there- 
fore, it seldom happens that a fair comparison can be 
made. I hope you will continue to cultivate this kind 
of learning, which has too long lain neglected, and 
which, if it be suffered to remain in oblivion for another 
century, may, perhaps, never be retrieved. As I wish 
well to all useful undertakings, I would not forbear to 
let you know how much you deserve in my opinion, 
from all lovers of study, and how much pleasure your 
work has given to, Sir, 

" Your most obliged, 

" And most humble servant, 
44 London, April % 17.57. " Sam. Johnson/ 3 


" Dr. Marstli of Padua, a learned gentleman, 
and good Latin poet, has a mind to see Oxford. I 
have given him a letter to Dr. Huddesford,* and shall 
be glad if you will introduce him, and shew him any 
thing in Oxford. 

" I am printing my new edition of Shakspeare. 

I long to see you all, but cannot conveniently 
come yet. You might write to me now and then, if 
you were good for any thing. But 5 honores mutant 

that they shall give yearly two liberal premiums for two compositions, one in 
verse, and the other in prose, in the Irish language." 

[Since the above was written, Mr. Flood's Will has been set aside, after a trial at 
bar, in the Court of Exchequer in Ireland. M.] 

4 " Now, or late Vice-Chancellor." 

" Mr. Warton was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in the preceding y«r" 

DR. JOHNSON. 2oi> 


mores. Professors forget their friends. I shall cer- 1757. 
tainly complain to Miss Jones. 6 1 am, JJ£J 

" Yours, &c. 48. 

'■' [London,] June 21, \7^>7- " Sam. Johnson." 

" Please to make my compliments to Mr. Wise." 

Mr. Burney having enclosed to him an extract from 
the review of his Dictionary in the Bibliotheque des 
Savans, 7 and a list of subscribers to his Shakspeare, 
which Mr. Burney had procured in Norfolk, he wrote 
the following answer : 




" That I may show myself sensible of your fa- 
vours, and not commit the same fault a second time, I 
make haste to answer the letter which 1 received this 
morning. The truth is, the other likewise was receiv- 
ed, and I wrote an answer ; but being desirous to trans- 
mit you some proposals and receipts, I waited till I 
could find a convenient conveyance, and day was pass- 
ed after day, till other things drove it from my thoughts ; 
yet not so, but that I remember with great pleasure 
your commendation of my Dictionary. Your praise 
was welcome, not only because 1 believe it was sincere, 
but because praise has been very scarce. A man of 
your candour will be surprised when I tell you, that 
among all my acquaintance there were only two, who 
upon the publication of my book did not endeavour to 
depress me with threats of censure from the publick, 
or with objections learned from those who had learned 
them from my own preface. Your's is the only letter 
of good-will that 1 have received ; though, indeed, I 
am promised something of that sort from Sweden. 

6 " Miss Jones lived at Oxford, and was often of our parties. She was a very in- 
genious poetess, and published a volume of poems ; and, on the whole, was a most 
sensible, agreeable, and amiable woman. She was sister to the Reverend River 
Jones, Chanter of Christ Church cathedral at Oxford, and Johnson used to call her 
the Chant ress. I have heard him often address her in this passage from ' II Pen- 

■5ER0SO :' 

c Thee, Chantress, oft the woods among 
' J woo,' &c. 
died unmarried." 

■ Tom. III. p. 4S2, 

2.54* THE LIFE OF 

1758. « How my new edition 8 will be received 1 know 
2^ not ; the subscription has not been very successful. I 
49. shall publish about March. 

" If you can direct me how to send proposals, I 
should wish that they were in such hands. 

" I remember, Sir, in some of the first letters with 
which you favoured me, you mentioned your lady. 
May I enquire after her ? In return for the favours 
which you have shewn me, it is not much to tell you, 
that I wish you and her all that can conduce to your 
happiness. I am, Sir, 

" Your most obliged, 

" And most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson."' 
•• Gough-s(juare y Dec. 24, 17<57- 

In 17.58 we find him, it should seem, in as easy and 
pleasant a state of existence, as constitutional unhappi- 
ness ever permitted him to enjoy. 




" I must have indeed slept very fast, not to have 
been awakened by your letter. None of your suspic- 
ions are true ; I am not much richer than when you 
left me ; and, what is worse, my omission of an answer 
to your first letter, will prove that I am not much 
wiser. But I go on as I formerly did, designing to be 
some time or other both rich and wise ; and yet culti- 
vate neither mind nor fortune. Do you take notice of 
my example, and learn the danger of delay. When I 
was as you are now, towering in confidence of twenty- 
one, little did I suspect that I should be at forty-nine, 
what I now am. 

" But you do not seem to need my admonition. 
You are busy in acquiring and in communicating 
knowledge, and while you are studying, enjoy the end 
of study, by making others wiser and happier. I was 

3 Of Shakspeare. 



much pleased with the tale that you told me of being 1758 
tutour to your sisters. 1, who have no sisters nor broth- ^^ 
ers, look with some degree of innocent envy on those 40. 
who may be said to be born to friends ; and cannot see, 
without wonder, how rarelv that native union is after- 
wards regarded. Jt sometimes, indeed, happens, that 
some supervenient cause of discord may overpower this 
original amity ; but it seems to me more frequently 
thrown away with levity, or lost by negligence, than 
destroyed by injury or violence. We tell the ladies 
that good wives make good husbands ; I believe it is a 
more certain position that good brothers make good sis- 

" I am satisfied with your stay at home, as Juvenal 
with his friend's retirement to Cumae : 1 know that 
vour absence is best, though it be not best for me. 


* Quamvis digressu veteris confusus amici, 

' Laudo taw en vacuis quod sedem ,/igere Cumls 

6 Destine^ atque unum civem donare SibyMce' 

" Langton is a good Cumce, but who must be Sibylla \ 
Mrs. Langton is as wise as Sibyl, and as good ; and 
will live, if my wishes can prolong life, till she shall in 
time be as old. But she differs in this, that she has 
not scattered her precepts in the wind, at least not those 
which she bestowed upon you. 

" The two Wartons just looked into the town, and 
were taken to see Cleone, where, David 9 says, they were 
starved for want of company to keep them warm. Da- 
vid and Doddy 1 have had a new quarrel, and, I think, 
cannot conveniently quarrel any more. 4 Cleone' was 
well acted by all the characters, but Bellamy left noth- 
ing to be desired. I went the first night, and support- 
ed it as well as I might ; for Doddy, you know, is my 
patron, and I would not desert him. The play was 
very well received. Doddy, after the danger was over, 
went every night to the stage-side, and cryed at the 
distress of poor Cleone. 

Mr. Garrick. 

Mr. Dodslev, the, Authour of Ckc 


3 758. " I have left off housekeeping, and therefore made 
presents of the game which you were pleased to send 
me. The pheasant I gave to Mr. Richardson, 1 the 
bustard to Dr. Lawrence, and the pot I placed with 
Miss Williams, to be eaten bv myself. She desires that 
her compliments and good wishes may be accepted by 
the family ; and I make the same request for myself. 

" Mr. llevnolds has within these few days raised his 
price to twenty guineas a head, and Miss is much em- 
ployed in miniatures. I know not any body [else] 
whose prosperity has encreased since you left them. 

" Murphy is to have his ' Orphan of China' acted 
next month ; and is therefore, I suppose, happy. I 
wish 1 could tell you of any great good to which I was 
approaching, but at present my prospects do not much 
delight me ; however, I am always pleased when 1 find 
that you, dear Sir, remember, 

" Your affectionate, humble servant, 
" Jan. 9, 17-58. " Sam. Johxsox." 

" SIR, 

" Your kindness is so great, and my claim to any 
particular regard from you so little, that I am at a loss 
how to express my sense of your favours ; 3 but I am, 
indeed, much pleased to be thus distinguished by you. 

" I am ashamed to tell you that my Shakspeare will 
not be out so soon as 1 promised my subscribers : but 
I did not promise them more than I promised myself, 
ft will, however, be published before summer. 

" I have sent you a bundle of proposals, which, I 
think, do not profess more than 1 have hitherto per- 
formed. I have printed many of the plays, and have- 
hitherto left very few passages unexplained ; where I 
am quite at loss, I confess my ignorance, which is sel- 
dom done by commentators. 

" 1 have, likewise, inclosed twelve receipts ; not that 
I mean to impose upon you the trouble of pushing 

- Mr. Samuel Richardson, Authour of Clarissa. 

• This letter was an answer, to one in which was enclosed a draft for the pay- 
aent '/some subscriptions to h>s Shakspeare. 

DR. JOHNSON. 5.57 

them, with more importunity than may seem proper, 1758. 
but that you may rather have more than fewer than jEtafc. 
you shall want. The proposals you will disseminate as 49. 
there shall be an opportunity. 1 once printed them at 
length in the Chronicle, and some of my friends (I be- 
lieve Mr. Murphy, who formerly wrote the GrayVInn 
Journal) introduced them with a splendid encomium. 

" Since the Life of Browne, I have been a little en- 
gaged, from time to time, in the Literary Magazine, 
but not very lately. I have not the collection by me, 
and therefore cannot draw out a catalogue of my own 
parts, but will do it, and send it. Do not buy them, 
for I will gather all those that have anv thing; of mine 
in them, and send them to Mrs. Burnev, as a small 
token of gratitude for the regard which she is pleased 
to bestow upon me. 

" I am, Sir, 
" Your most obliged 

" And most humble servant, 
''* London, March 8, 1758. " Sam. Johnson/'' 

Dr. Burney has kindly favoured me with the follow- 
ing memorandum, which I take the liberty to insert in 
his own genuine easy style. I love to exhibit sketches 
of my illustrious friend by various eminent hands. 

" Soon after this, Mr. Burney, during a visit to the 
capital, had an interview with him in Gough-square, 
where he dined and drank tea with him, and was in- 
troduced to the acquaintance of Mrs. Williams. After 
dinner, Mr. Johnson proposed to Mr. Burney to go up 
with him into his garret, which being accepted, he 
there found about five or six Greek folios, a deal writ- 
ing desk, and a chair and a hair". Johnson giving to 
his guest the entire seat, tottered himself on one with 
only three legs and one arm. Here he gave Mr. Bur- 
ney Mrs. Williams's history, and shewed him some 
volumes of his Shakspeare already printed, to prove that 
he was in earnest. Upon Mr. tourney's opening the first 
volume, at the Merchant of Venice, he observed to 
him, that he seemed to be more severe on Warburton 
than rheobald. ' O poor Tib. ! (said Johnson) he was 

vol. t. J 


i?58. ready knocked down to my hands ; Warburton stands 
JeJ^ between me and him/ ' But, Sir, (said Mr. Burney,) 
49. "you'll have Warburton upon your bones, won't you V 
4 No, Sir ; he'll not come out : he'll only growl in his 
den.' ' But you think, Sir, that Warburton is a supe- 
riour critick to Theobald V — ' O, Sir, he'd make two- 
and-fifty Theobalds, cut into slices ! The worst of War- 
burton is, that he has a rage for saying something, when 
there's nothing to be said.' — Mr. Burnev then asked 
him whether he had seen the letter which Warburton 
had written in answer to a pamphlet addressed ' To the 
most impudent Man alive.' He answered in the neg- 
ative. Mr. Burney told him it was supposed to be 
written by Mallet. The controversy now raged be- 
tween the friends of Pope and Bolingbroke ; and War- 
burton and Mallet were the leaders of the several par- 
ties. Mr. Burney asked him then if he had seen War- 
burton's book against Bolingbroke's Philosophy 1 ' No, 
Sir ; I have never read Bolingbroke's impiety, and 
therefore am not interested about its confutation." 

On the fifteenth of April he began a new periodical 
paper, entitled "The Idler,"* which came out every 
Saturday in a weekly news-paper, called " The Univer- 
sal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette," published by New- 
bery. These essays were continued till April 5, 17(0. 
Of one hundred and three, their total number, twelve 
were contributed by his friends ; of which, Numbers 
.33, 93, and 96, were written by Mr. Thomas Warton ; 
No. 67 by Mr. Langton ; and No. 76, 79, and 82, by 
Sir Joshua Reynolds ; the concluding words of No. 82, 
" and pollute his canvas with deformity," being added 
by Johnson ; as Sir Joshua informed me. 

The Idler is evidently the work of the same mind 
which produced the Rambler, but has less body and 
more spirit. It has more variety of real life, and greater 
facility of language. He describes the miseries of idle- 
ness, with the lively sensations of one who has felt 
them ; and in his private memorandums while engaged 
in it, we find, "This year I hope to learn diligence."* 
Manv of these excellent essays were written as hastily 

4 Prayers and Meditations, p. 30, 


as an ordinary letter. Mr. Langton remembers John- 1758. 
son, when on a visit at Oxford, asking him one evening jT t ^ 
how long it was till the post went out; and on being 49. 
told about half an hour, he exclaimed, "then we shall 
do very well." lie upon this instantly sat down and 
finished an Idler, which it was necessary should be in 
London the next day. Mr. Langton having signified 
a wish to read it, " Sir, (said he) you shall not do more 
than 1 have done myself." He then folded it up, and 
sent it off. 

Yet there are in the Idler several papers which shew 
as much profundity of thought, and labour of language, 
as any of this great man's writings. No. 14, " Robbery 
of time;" No. S4, "Thinking;" No. 41, "Death of a 
friend;" No. 43, "Flight of time ;" No. 51, " Domes- 
tick greatness unattainable;" No. 52, " Self-denial ; 3 
No. 58, " Actual, how short of fancied, excellence ;' 
No. 89, " Physical evil moral good ;" and his conclud- 
ing paper on "The horrour of the last," will prove this 
assertion. I know not why a motto, the usual trapping 
of periodical papers is prefixed to very few of the Idlers, 
as I have heard Johnson commend the custom : and 
he never could be at a loss for one, his memory being 
stored with innumerable passages of the classicks. In 
this series of essays he exhibits admirable instances of 
grave humour, of which he had an uncommon share. 
Nor on some occasions has he repressed that power of 
sophistry which he possessed in so eminent a degree. In 
No. 11, he treats with the utmost contempt the opinion 
that our mental faculties depend, in some degree, upon 
the weather ; an opinion, which they who have never 
experienced its truth are not to be envied, and of which 
he himself could not but be sensible, as the effects of 
weather upon him were very visible. Yet thus he de- 
claims : " Surely, nothing is more reproachful to a be- 
ing endowed with reason, than to resign its powers to 
the influence of the air, and live in dependence on the 
weather and the wind for the only blessings which na- 
ture has put into our power, tranquillity and benevo- 
lence. — This distinction of seasons is produced only by 
imagination operating on luxury. To temperance, every 


1758. day is bright; and every hour is propitious to diligence. 

a^'T He that shall resolutely excite his faculties, or exert 

49. his virtues, will soon make himselt supenour to the 

seasons : and may set at defiance the morning mist and 

the evening damp, the blasts of the east, and the clouds 

of the south." 

Alas ! it is too certain, that where the frame has del- 
icate fibres, and there is a fine sensibility, such influ- 
ences of the air are irresistible. He might as well have 
bid defiance to the ague, the palsy, and all other bodily 
disorders. Such boasting; of the mind is false elevation. 

" I think the Romans call it Stoicism." 

But in this number of his Idler his spirits seem to run 
riot ; for in the wantonness of his disquisition he for- 
gets, for a moment, even the reverence for that which 
he held in high respect ; and describes " the attendant 
on a Court" as one " whose business is to watch the 
looks of a being, weak and foolish as himself." 

His unqualified ridicule of rhetorical gesture or ac- 
tion is not, surely, a test of truth ; yet we cannot help 
admiring how well it is adapted to produce the effect 
which he wished. " Neither the judges of our laws, 
nor the representatives of our people, would be much 
affected by laboured gesticulations, or believe any man 
the more because he rolled his eyes, or puffed his 
cheeks, or spread abroad his arms, or stamped the 
ground, or thumped his breast ; or turned his e\ 
sometimes to the ceiling, and sometimes to the floor." 

A casual coincidence with other writers, or an adop- 
tion of a sentiment or image which has been found in 
the writings of another, and afterwards appears in the 
mind as one's own, is not unfrequent. The richness 
of Johnson's fancy, which could supply his page abun-. 
dantly on all occasions, and the strength of his memoi ■;. . 
which at once detected the real owner of any thought, 
made him less liable to the imputation of plagiarism 
than, perhaps, any of our writers. In the Idler, how- 
ever, there is a paper, in which conversation is assim- 
ilated to a bowl of punch, where there is the same 
train of comparison as in a poem by Blacklock, in his 


collection published in 17-56 ; in which a parallel is in- 1758. 
geniously drawn between human life and that liquor, jg^ 
It ends, 49. 

" Say, then, physicians of each kind, 
" Who cure the body or the mind, 
" What harm in drinking can there be, 
" Since punch and life so well agree I" 

To the Idler, when collected in volumes, he added, 
beside the Essay on Epitaphs, and the Dissertation on 
those of Pope, an Essay on the Bravery of the English 
common Soldiers. He, however, omitted one of the 
original papers, which in the folio copy, is No. 22. s 


" Your notes upon my poet were very accepta- 
ble. I beg that you will be so kind as to continue 
your searches. It will be reputable to my work, and 
suitable to your professorship, to have something of 
yours in the notes. As you have given no directions 
about your name, I shall therefore put it. I w r ish your 
brother would take the same trouble. A commentary 
must arise from the fortuitous discoveries of many men 
in devious walks of literature. Some of your remarks 
are on plays already printed : but 1 purpose to add an 
Appendix of Notes, so that nothing comes too late. 

" You give yourself too much uneasiness, dear Sir, 
about the loss of the papers. 6 The loss is nothing, if 
nobody has found them ; nor even then, perhaps, if the 
numbers be known. You are not the only friend thai 
has had the same mischance. You may repair your 
want out of a stock, which is deposited with Mr. Allen, 
of Magdalen-Hall ; or out of a parcel which I have 
just sent to Mr. Chambers 7 for the use of any body 
that will be so kind as to want them. Mr. Langtons 

5 This paper may be found in Stockdale's supplemental volume, of Johnson's 
Miscellaneous Pieces. 

6 " Receipts for Shakspeare." 

' " Then of Lincoln College. Now Sir Robert Chambers, one of the Judges in 


1758. are well ; and Miss Roberts, whom I have at last 
2J^ brought to speak, upon the information which you gave 
49. me, that she had something to say. 

" I am, &c. 
" [London,'] April 14, 1758. " Sam. Johnson/-' 


" You will receive this by Mr. Baretti, a gentle,- 
man particularly intitled to the notice and kindness of 
the Professor of poesy. He has time but for a short 
stay, and will be glad to have it filled up with as much 
as he can hear and see. 

" In recommending another to your favour, I ought 
not to omit thanks for the kindness which you have 
shewn to myself. Have you any more notes on Shak- 
speare ? I shall be glad of them. 

" I see your pupil sometimes, 8 his mind is as exalt- 
ed as his stature. 1 am half afraid of him ; but he is 
no less amiable than formidable. He will, if the for- 
wardness of his spring be not blasted, be a credit to 
you, and to the University. He brings some of my 
plays 9 with him, which he has my permission to shew 
you, on condition you will hide them from every body 

" I am, dear Sir, &c. 
i: [London,] June 1, 1758. " Sam. Johnson. ** 



" Though I might have expected to hear from 
sou, upon your entrance into a new state of life at a 
new place, yet recollecting, (not without some degree 
of shame,} that I owe you a letter upon an old account, 
1 think it my part to write first. This, indeed, 1 do 
not only from complaisance but from interest ; for liv- 
ing on in the old way, I am very glad of a correspond- 

3 " Mr. Langton." 

" " Part of the impression of the Shakspeare, which Dr. Johnson conducted alone. 
and published by subscription. This edition came out ia 1765." 


ent so capable as yourself, to diversify the hours. You 1758.1 
have, at present, too many novelties about you to need ^£ut! 
any help from me to drive along your time. 49. 

" 1 know not any thing more pleasant, or more in- 
structive, than to compare experience with expectation, 
or to register from time to time the difference between 
idea and reality. It is by this kind of observation that 
we grow daily less liable to be disappointed. You, 
who are very capable of anticipating futurity, and rais- 
ing phantoms before your own eyes, must often have 
imagined to yourself an academical life, and have con- 
ceived what would be the manners, the views, and the 
Mitversation, of men devoted to letters ; how they 
would choose their companions, how they would direct 
their studies, and how they would regulate their lives. 
Let me know what you expected, and what you have 
found. At least record it to yourself before custom 
has reconciled you to the scenes before you, and the 
disparity of your discoveries to your hopes has vanished 
from your mind. It is a rule never to be forgotten, 
that whatever strikes stron^'lv, should be described 
while the first impression remains fresh upon the mind. 

" I love, dear Sir, to think on you, and therefore, 
should willingly write more to you, but that the post 
will not now eive me leave to do more than send mv 
compliments to Mr. Warton, and tell you that I am, 
dear Sir, most affectionately, 

" Your very humble servant, 

" June 2S, 17-58. - Sam. Johnson." 



" I should be sorry to think that what engrosses 
the attention of my friend, should have no part of mine. 
Your mind is now full of the fate of Dury ; ' but his 

1 Major General Alexander Dury, of the first regiment of foot-guards, who fell 
in the gallant discharge of his duty, near St. Cas, in the well-known unfortunate 
expedition against France, in 1758. His lady and Mr/Langton's mother were sis- 
ters. He left an only son, Lieutennnt-Colonel Dury, who has a company in the 
same regiment. 


1758. fate is past, and nothing remains but to try what re- 
JEtaT fl ect J° n w iM suggest to mitigate the terrours of a violent 
49. ' death, which is more formidable at the first glance, 
than on a nearer and more steady view. A violent 
death is never very painful ; the only danger is, lest it 
should be unprovided. But if a man can be supposed 
to make no provision for death in war, what can be the 
state that would have awakened him to the care of fu- 
turity ? When would that man have prepared himself 
to die, who went to seek death without preparation ? 
What then can be the reason why we lament more him 
that dies of a wound, than him that dies of a fever ? A 
man that languishes with disease, ends his life with more 
pain, but with less virtue : he leaves no example to his 
friends, nor bequeaths any honour to his descendants. 
The only reason why we lament a soldier's death, is, 
that we think he might have lived longer ; yet this 
cause of grief is common to many other kinds of death, 
which are not so passionately bewailed. The truth is, 
that every death is violent which is the effect of acci- 
dent ; every death, which is not gradually brought on 
by the miseries of age, or when life is extinguished for 
any other reason than that it is burnt out. He that 
dies before sixty, of a cold or consumption, dies, in 
reality, by a violent death ; yet his death is borne with 
patience, only because the cause of his untimely end is 
silent and invisible. Let us endeavour to see things as 
they are, and then enquire whether we ought to com- 
plain. Whether to see life as it is, will give us much 
consolation, I know not : but the consolation which is 
drawn from truth, if any there be, is solid and durable : 
that which may be derived from errour, must be, like 
its original, fallacious and fugitive. I am, dear, dear 
Sir, your most humble servant, 

" Sept. 31, 1758. " Sam. Johnson." 

In 1759, in the month of January, his mother died 
at the great age of ninety, an event which deeply af- 
fected him ; not that " his mind had acquired no firm- 
ness by the contemplation of mortality ; z but that his 

2 Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 395. 


reverential affection for Ik r was nor abated by years, as 1759. 
indeed he retained all his tender feelings even to the jg t ^ 
latest period of his life. 1 hav( been told, that he re- 50. 
gretted much his not having gone to visit his mother 
for several years, previous to her death. But he was 
constantly engaged in literary labours which confined 
him to London ; and though he had not the comfort 
of seeing his aged parent, he contributed liberally to her 




" The account which Miss [Porter] gives me of 
your health, pierces my heart. God comtbrt, and pre- 
serve you, and save you, for the sake of Jesus Christ. 

" I would have Miss read to you from time to time 
the Passion of our Saviour, and sometimes the senten- 
ces in the Communion Service, beginning — Come unto 
me, all ye that travel and are heavy laden, and I will 
give you rest. 

" I have just now read a physical book, which in- 
clines me to think that a strong infusion of the bark 
would do you good. Do, dear Mother, try it. 

" Pray, send me your blessing, and forgive all that] 
have done amiss to vou. And whatever you would 
have done, and what debts you would have paid first, 
or any thing else that you would direct, let Miss put it 
down ; I shall endeavour to obey you. 

" I have got twelve guineas 3 to send you, but un- 
happily am at a loss how to send it to-night. If I can- 
not send it to-night, it will come by the next post, 

2 [Since the publication of the third edition of this work, the following letters c I 
Dr. Johnson, occasioned bv the lust illness of his mother, were obligingly commu- 
nicated to Mr. Malone by the Rev. Dr. Vyse. They are placed here agreeably to 
the chronological order almost uniformly observed by the authour ; and so strong- 
ly evince Dr. Johnson's piety, and tenderness of heart, that every reader must be 
gratified by their insertion. M.] 

1 [Six of these twelve guineas Johnson appears to have borrowed from Mr. M~ 
len, the Printer. See Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. SW. n. M.i 

VOL. T. 34 


1759. " p ra yj c jo not omit any thing mentioned in this 
^ taL letter. God bless you for ever and ever. 
50. " I am 

Your dutiful Son, 
" Jan. 13, 175S.* " Sam. Johnson/' 





" I think myself obliged to you beyond all ex- 
pression of gratitude for your care of my dear mother. 
God grant it may not be without success. Tell Kitty, s 
that 1 shall never forget her tenderness for her mistress. 
Whatever you can do, continue to do. My heart is 
very full. 

" I hope you received twelve guineas on Monday. 
I found a way of sending them by means of the Post- 
master, after I had written my letter, and hope they 
came safe. I will send you more in a few days. God 
bless you all. 

" I am, my dear, 
" Your most obliged 
" And most humble Servant, 
"'• Jan. 16, 17<39- " Sam. Johnson. 

" Over the leaf is a letter to my mother. 



" Your weakness afflicts me beyond what I am 
willing to communicate to you. I do not think you 
unfit to face death, but 1 know not how to bear the 
thought of losing you. Endeavour to do all you [can] 
for yourself. Eat as much as you can. 

4 [Written by mistake for 1759, as the subsequent letters shew. In the next let- 
ter, he had inadvertently fallen into the same errour but corrected it. On the out- 
side of the letter of the 1 3th was written by another hand — f Pray, acknowledge 
the receipt of this by return of the post, without fail." M.] 

s [Catharine Chambers, Mrs. Johnson's maid-servant. She died in October, 
1767. See Dr. Johnson's Prayers and Meditations, p. 71 ; " Sunday, Oct 
18, 1767. Yesterday, Oct. 17, I took my leave for ever of my dear old friend, 
Catharine Chambers, who came to live with my mother about 1 724, and has been 
but little parted from us since. She buried my father, my brother, and my moth- 
er. She is now fifty-eight years old." M.] 


" I Pray often for you ; do you pray for me. — 1 1759. 
have nothing to add to my last letter. jEtaT 

' : I am, dear, dear Mother, 50. 

" Your dutiful Son, 
" Jan. 10', 1759. " Sam. Johnson." 


" I fear you are too ill for long letters ; there- 
fore I will only tell you, you have from me all the re- 
gard that can possibly subsist in the heart. I pray 
God to bless you for evermore, for Jesus Christ's sake. 
" Let Miss write to me every post, however short. 
" I am, dear Mother, 

" Your dutiful Son, 
" Jan. 18, 17-59. ' ; Sam. Johnson." 


" I wtll, if it be possible, come down to you. 
God grant I may yet [find] my clear mother breathing 
and sensible. Do not tell her, lest I disappoint hes. 
If J miss to write next post, I am on the road. 
" I am, 

" My dearest Miss, 

" Your most humble servant, 
" Jan. 20, 1759. " Sam. Johnson." 

" On the other side?' 


" Neither your condition nor your character 
make it fit for me to say much. You have been the 
best mother, and I believe the best woman in the 
world. 1 thank you for your indulgence to me, and 
beg forgiveness of all that I have done ill, and all that 

« [This letter was written oq the second leaf ©f the preceding, addressed to Misa 
Porter. M.] 


1.759. I have omitted to do well. 7 God grant you his Holy 
SaT Spirit, and receive you to everlasting happiness, for 
50. " Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. Lord Jesus receive your 
spirit. Amen. 

" I am, dear, dear Mother, 

" Your dutiful Son, 
" Jan. 20, 17o9* " Sam. Johnson. 1 ' 


" You will conceive my sorrow for the loss of my 
mother, of the best mother, if she were to live again, 
surely I should behave better to her. Hut she is hap- 
py, and what is past is nothing to her ; and for me, 
since 1 cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repent- 
ance will efface them. I return you and all those that 
have been good to her my sincerest thanks, and pray 
God to repay you all with infinite advantage. Write 
to me, and comfort me, dear child. 1 shall be glad 
likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill 
of twenty pounds in a few days, which I thought to 
have brought to my mother ; but God suffered it not. 
I have not power or composure to say much more. 
God bless you, and bless us all. 
" I am, dear Miss, 

" Your affectionate humble servant, 
" Jan. 23, 17-59. 8 " Sam. Johnson 

, » 

Soon after this event, he wrote his " Rasselas, 
Prince of Abyssinia ;* concerning the publication 
of which Sir John Hawkins guesses vaguely and idly, 
instead of having taken the trouble to inform himself 
with authentick precision. Not to trouble my readers 
with a repetition of the Knight's reveries, 1 have to 
mention, that the late Mr. Strahan the printer told me, 

' [So, in the Prayer which he composed on this occasion : " Almighty God, 
merciful Father, in whose hands are life and death, sanctify unto me the sorrow 
which I now feel. Forgive me -whatever I have done unkindly to my mother, and what- 
ever I have omitted to do kindly. Make me to remember her good precepts and good 
example, and to reform my life according to thy holy word, &c. Prayers and 
Meditations, p. 31. M.] 

p [Mrs. Johnson probably died on the 20th or 21st of January, and was buried 
on the day this letter was written. M.j 

MR. JOHNSON. i'69 

that Johnson wrote it, that with the profits he might '759. 
defray the expence of his mother's funeral, and pay g£^ 
some little debts which she had left. lie told Sir 50. 
Joshua Reynolds, that he composed it in the evenings 
of one week, 9 sent it to the press in portions as it was 
written, and had never since read it over. 1 Mr. Stra- 
han, Air. Johnston, and Mr. Dodsley, purchased it for 
a hundred pounds, but afterwards paid him twenty- 
five pounds more, when it came to a second edition. 

Considering the lanre sums which have been receiv- 
ed for compilations, and works requiring not much 
more genius than compilations, we cannot but wonder 
at the very low price which he was content to receive 
for this admirable performance ; which, though he had 
written nothing else, would have rendered his name 
immortal in the world of literature. None of his wri- 
tings has been so extensively diffused over Europe ; 
for it has been translated into most, if not all, of the 
modern languages. This Tale, with all the charms of 
oriental imagery, and all the force and beauty of which 
the English language is capable, leads us through the 
most important scenes of human life, and shews us that 
this stage of our being is full of " vanity and vexation 
of spirit." To those who look no further than the pres- 
ent life, or who maintain that human nature has not 
fallen from the state in which it was created, the in- 
struction of this sublime story will be of no avail. But 
they who think justly, and feel with strong sensibility, 
will listen with eagerness and admiration to its truth 
and wisdom. Voltaire's Candide, written to refute 
the system of Optimism, which it has accomplished with 
brilliant success, is wonderfully similar in its plan and 
conduct to Johnson's Hasselas ; insomuch, that I 
have heard Johnson say, that if they had not been pub- 
lished so closely one after the other that there was not 
time for imitation, it would have been in vain to deny 
that the scheme of that which came latest was taken 

9 [Rasselas was published in March or April 1759.] 

, [See vol. iii. under June 2, 1781. Finding it then accidentally in a chaise with 
Mr. Boswell, he read it eagerly, — This was doubtless long after his declaration to 
Sir Joshua Reynolds. M.] 

2/0 1HE LIJbE OI 

1759. from the other. Though the proposition illustrated by 
^jj^ both these works was the same, namely, that in our 
50. present state there is more evil than good, the inten- 
tion of the writers was verv different. Voltaire, I am 
afraid, meant only by wanton profaneness to obtain a 
sportive victory over religion, and to discredit the belief 
of a superintending Providence : Johnson meant, by 
shewing the unsatisfactory nature of things temporal, 
to direct the hopes of man to things eternal. Rasselas, 
as was observed to me by a very accomplished lady, 
may be considered as a more enlarged and more deep- 
ly philosophical discourse in prose, upon the interesting 
truth, which in his " Vanity of Human Wishes" he 
had so successfully enforced in verse. 

The fund of thinking which this work contains is 
such, that almost every sentence of it may furnish a 
subject of long meditation. I am not satisfied if a 
year passes without my having read it through ; and 
at every perusal, my admiration of the mind which 
produced it is so highly raised, that I can scarcely be- 
lieve that I had the honour of enjoying the intimacy of 
such a man. 

I restrain myself from quoting passages from this ex- 
cellent work, or even referring to them, because I 
should not know what to select, or, rather what to 
omit. 1 shall, however, transcribe one, as it shews how 
well he could state the arguments of those who be- 
lieve in the appearance of departed spirits ; a doctrine 
which it is a mistake to suppose that he himself ever 
positively held : 

" If all your fear be of apparitions, (said the Prince,) 
I will promise you safety : there is no danger from the 
dead ; he that is once buried will be seen no more. 

" That the dead are seen no more, (said Imlac,) I 
will not undertake to maintain, against the concurrent 
and unvaried testimony of all ages, and of all nations. 
There is no people, rude or learned, among whom ap- 
paritions of the dead are not related and believed. This 
opinion, which prevails as far as human nature is dif- 
fused, could become universal only by its truth ; those 
that never heard of one another, would not have agreed 


in a tale which nothing but experience can make cred- 1759. 
ible. That it is doubted by single cavillers, can very 2t^ 
little weaken the general evidence ; and some who de- 50. 
ny it with their tongues, confess it by their tears." 

Notwithstanding my high admiration of Rasselas, I 
will not maintain that the " morbid melancholy" in 
Johnson's constitution may not, perhaps, have made 
life appear to him more insipid and unhappy than it 
generally is ; for I am sure that he had less enjoyment 
from it than I have. Yet, whatever additional shade 
his own particular sensations may have thrown on 
his representation of life, attentive observation and close 
enquiry have convinced me, that there is too much re- 
ality in the gloomy picture. The truth, however, is, 
that we judge of the happiness and misery of life dif- 
ferently at different times, according to the state of our 
changeable frame. 1 always remember a remark made 
to me bv a Turkish lady, educated in France : " Ma 
fbi, Monsieur, not re bonheur depend de la facon que no- 
tre sang circule." This have I learnt from a pretty 
hard course of experience, and would, from sincere be- 
nevolence, impress upon all who honour this book 
with a perusal, that until a steady conviction is obtain- 
ed, that the present life is an imperfect state, and only 
a passage to a better, if we comply with the divine 
scheme of progressive improvement ; and also that it is 
a part of the mysterious plan of Providence, that intel- 
lectual beings must " be made perfect through suffer- 
ing ;" there will be a continual recurrence of disap- 
pointment and uneasiness. But if we walk with hope 
in " the mid-day sun" of revelation, our temper and 
disposition will be such, that the comforts and enjoy- 
ments in our way will be relished, while we patiently 
support the inconveniencies and pains. After much 
speculation and various reasonings, I acknowledge 
myseif convinced of the truth of Voltaire's conclusion. 
" Apres tout c' est un monde passable. 33 Hut we must" 
not think too deeply .; 

-where ignorance is bliss.. 

;; -Tis follv to be wise/' 

273 THE LIFE Ol 

1759. is, in many respects, more than poetically just. Lei 
^^ us cultivate, under the command of good principles, 
50. ' /« theorie des sensations agreables ;' and, as Mr. Burke 
once admirably counselled a grave and anxious gentle- 
man, " live pleasant." 

The effect of Rasselas, and of Johnson's other moral 
tales, is thus beautifully illustrated by Mr. Courtenay : 

" Impressive truth, in splendid fiction drest, 

" Checks the vain wish, and calms the troubled breast ; 

" O'er the dark mind a light celestial throws, 

" And sooths the angry passions to repose ; 

" As oil effus'd illumes and smooths the deep, 

" When round the bark the swelling surges sweep."" 

It will be recollected, that during all this year he 
carried on his Idler, 3 and, no doubt, was proceeding, 
though slowly, in his edition of Shakspeare. He, how- 
ever, from that liberality which never failed, when call- 
ed upon to assist other labourers in literature, found 

2 Literary and Moral Character of Johnson. 

3 This paper was in such high estimation before ic was collected into volumes, 
that it was seized on with avidity by various publishers of news-papers and Mag- 
azines, to enrich their publications. Johnson, to put a stop to this unfair proceed- 
ing, wrote for the Universal Chronicle the following advertisement ; in which 
there is, perhaps, more pomp of words than the occasion demanded : 

" London, Jan. 5, 1759. Advertisement. The proprietors of the paper inti- 
tled ' The Idler,' having found that those essays are inserted in the news-paper? 
and magazines with so little regard to justice or decency, that the Universal Chron- 
icle, in which thev first appear, is not always mentioned, think it necessary to de- 
clare to the publishers of those collections, that however patiently they have hith- 
erto endured these injuries, made yet more injurious by contempt, they have now 
determined to endure them no longer. They have already seen essays, for which 
a very large price is paid, transferred, with the most shameless rapacity, into the 
weekly or monthly compilations, and their right, at least for the present, alienated 
from them, before they could themselves be said to enjoy it. But they would not 
willingly be thought to want tenderness, even for men by whom, no tenderness hath 
been shewn. The past is without remedy, and shall be without resentment. But 
those who have been thus busy with their sickles in the fields of their neighbours, 
are henceforward to take notice, that the time of impunity is at an end. Whoev- 
er shall, without our leave, lay the hand of rapine upon our papers, is to expect 
that we shall vindicate our due, by the means which justice prescribes, and which 
3re warranted by the immemorial prescriptions of honourable trade. We shall 
lay hold, in our turn, on their copies, degrade them from the pomp of wide mar- 
gin and diffuse typography, contract them into a narrow space, and sell them at 
an humble price ; yet not with a view of growing rich by confiscations, for we 
think not much better of money got by punishment than by crimes. We shall 
therefore, when our losses are repaid, give what profit shall remain to the Magda- 
lens ; for we know not who can be more properly taxed for the support of penitent 
prostitutes, than prostitutes in whom there yet appears neither penitence nor 


time to translate for Mrs. Lenox's English version of 1 759. 
Brumoy, " A Dissertation on the Greek Comedy,""]" jp Jldt 
and " The General Conclusion of the Book."f 50. 

An enquiry into the state of foreign countries was an 
object that seems at all times to have interested John- 
son. Hence Mr. Newbery found no great difficulty in 
persuading him to write the Introduction* to a collec- 
tion of voyages and travels published by him under the 
title of " The World Displayed :" the first volume of 
which appeared this year, and the remaining volumes 
in subsequent years. 

1 would ascribe to this year the following letter to a 
son of one of his early friends at Lichfield, Mr. Joseph 
Simpson, Barrister, and authour of a tract entitled 
44 Reflections on the Study of the Law." 



" Your father's inexorability not only grieves but 
amazes me : he is your father ; he was always account- 
ed a wise man ; nor do I remember any thing to the 
disadvantage of his good nature ; but in his refusal to 
assist you there is neither good nature, fatherhood, nor 
wisdom. It is the practice of good nature to overlook 
faults which have already, by the consequences, pun- 
ished the delinquent. It is natural for a father to think 
more favourably than others of his children ; and it is 
always wise to give assistance, while a little help will 
prevent the necessity of greater. 

" If you married imprudently, you miscarried at your 
own hazard, at an age when you had a right of choice. 
\t would be hard if the man iui<>ht not choose his own 
wife who has a right to nlead before the Judges of his 

" if your imprudence has ended in difficulties and 
inconveniencies, you are yourself to support them; 
and, with the help of a little better health, you would 
support them and conquer them. Surely, that want 
which accident and sickness produces, is to be support- 
ed in every region of humanity, though there were 
neither friends nor fathers in the world. You have 

vol. I. 35 


3 759. certainly from your father the highest claim of charity, 
'trf!? thouqrh none of ri«ht : and therefore I would counsel 
50. you to omit no decent nor manly degree 01 importuni- 
ty. Your debts in the whole are not large, and of the 
whole but a small part is troublesome. Small debts 
are like small shot ; they are rattling on every side, and 
can scarcely be escaped without a wound : great debts 
are like cannon ; of loud noise, but little danger. You 
must, therefore, be enabled to discharge petty debts, 
that you may have leisure, with security, to struggle 
with the rest. Neither the great nor little debts dis- 
grace you. I am sure you have my esteem for the 
courage with which you contracted them, and the 
spirit with which you endure them. I wish my esteem 
could be of more use. 1 have been invited, or have- 
invited myself, to several parts of the kingdom ; and 
Aviil not incommode my dear Lucy by coming to Lich- 
field, while her present lodging is of any use to her. I 
hope, in a few days, to be at leisure, and to make visits. 
Whither I shall fly is matter of no importance. A man 
unconnected is at home every where; unless he may 
lie said to be at home no where. 1 am sorry, dear Sir, 
that where you have parents, a man of your merits 
should not have a home. I wish I could give it you. 
[ am, my dear Sir, 

" Affectionately yours, 

*' Sam. Johnson." 

He now refreshed himself by an excursion to Ox- 
ford, of which the following short characteristical no- 
tice, in his own words, is preserved : — " is 

now making tea for me. I have been in my gown ever 
since I came here. It was, at my first coming, quite 
new and handsome. I have swum thrice, which 1 had 
disused for many years. I have proposed to Vansit- 
tart* climbing over the wall, but he has refused me. 
And I have ciapped my hands till they are sore, at Dr. 
King's speech." s 

4 Dr, Robert Vansittart, of the ancient and respectable family of that name ii« 
Berkshire. He was eminent for learning and worth, and much esteemed by Dr 
ison. ^ 

^Gentleman's Magazine, April 1785, 


His negro servant, Francis Barber, having left him, ] 759. 
and been some time at sea, not pressed as has been ^ tat 
supposed, but with his own consent, it appears from a 50. 
letter to John Wilkes, Esq. from Dr. Smollet, that his 
master kindly interested himself in procuring his release 
from a state of life of which .Johnson always expressed 
the utmost abhorrence. He said, " No man will be a 
sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into 
a jail ; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the 
chance of being drowned." 6 And at another time. 
" A man in a jail has more room, better food, and 
commonly better company." 7 The letter was as fol- 
lows : 

* dear sir, " Chelsea, March 16, 1759. 

" I am again your petitioner, in behalf of that great 
Cham 8 of literature, Samuel Johnson. His black ser- 
vant, whose name is Francis Barber, has been pressed 
on board the Stag Frigate, Captain Angel, and our lex- 
icographer is in great distress. He says, the boy is a 
sickly lad, of a delicate frame, and particularly subject 
to a malady in his throat, which renders him very unfit 
for his Majesty's service. You know what matter of 
animosity the said Johnson has against you : and I dare 
say you desire no other opportunity of resenting it, 
than that of laying him under an obligation. He was 
humble enough to desire my assistance on this occa- 
sion, though he and I were never cater-cousins ; and I 

6 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 126. 

' Ibid, p. 251. 

In my first edition this word was printed Chum, as it appears in one of Mr. 
Wilkes's Miscellanies, and I animadverted on Dr. Smollett's ignorance ; for which 
let me propitiate the manes of that ingenious and benevolent gentleman. Chi m 
was certainly a mistaken reading for Cham, the title of the Sovereign of Tartary, 
which is well applied to Johnson, the Monarch of Literature : and was an epithet 
familiar to Smollett. See " Roderick Random," chap. 56. For this correction 1 
am indebted to Lord Palmerston, whose talents and literary acquirements accord 
well with his respectable pedigree of Temple. 

[After the publication of the second edition of this work, the authour was fur- 
nished by Mr. Abercrombie of Philadelphia, with the copy of a letter written by 
Dr. John Armstrong, the poet, to Dr. Smollett at Leghorn, containing the following 
paragraph : 

" As to the K. Bench patriot, it is hard to say from, what motive he published a 
letter of yours asking some trifling favour of him in behalf of somebody for whom 
the great Cham of literature, Mr. Johnson, had interested himself." M.J 


1759- gave him to understand that I would make application 
)e^ to my friend Mr. Wilkes, who, perhaps, by his interest 
50. with Dr. Hay and Mr. Elliot, might be able to procure 
the discharge of his lacquey. It would be superfluous 
to say more on the subject, which J leave to your own 
consideration ; but I cannot let slip this opportunity of 
declaring that I am, with the most inviolable esteem 
and attachment, dear Sir, 

" Your affectionate obliged humble servant, 

" T. Smollett." 

Mr. Wilkes, who upon all occasions has acted, as a 
private gentleman, with most polite liberality, applied 
to his friend Sir George Hay, then one of the Lords 
Commissioners of the Admiralty ; and Francis Barber 
was discharged, as he has told me, without any wish of 
his own. He found his old master in Chambers in the 
Inner Temple, and returned to his service. 

What particular new scheme of life Johnson had in 
view this year, I have not discovered ; but that he med- 
itated one of some sort, is clear from his private devo- 
tions, in which we find, 9 " the change of outward 
things which 1 am now to make ;" and, " Grant me 
the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that the course which I 
am now beginning may proceed according to thy laws, 
and end in the enjoyment of thy favour." But he did 
not, in fact, make any external or visible change. 

At this time there being a competition among the 
architects of London to be employed in the building of 
Blackfriars-bridge, a question was very warmly agitated 
whether semicircular or elliptical arches were prefera- 
ble. In the design offered by Mr. Mylne the elliptical 
form was adopted, and therefore it was the great object 
of his rivals to attack it. Johnson's regard for his friend 
Mr. Gwyn induced him to engage in this controversy 
against Mr. Mylne ; ' and after being at considerable 

9 Prayers and Meditations, pp. 30 and 40. 

1 Sir John Hawkins has given a long detail of it, in that manner vulgarly, but 
significantly, called rigmarole ; in which, amidst an ostentatious exhibition of arts 
and artists, he talks of " proportions of a column being taken from that of the hu- 
man figure, and adjusted by iva/af-i-- -masculine and feminine — in a man, sesquioctave 
of the head, and in a woman tesquinonal ',■ nor has he failed to introduce a jargon 


pains to study the subject, he wrote three several let- 1759. 
ters.inthe Gazetteer, in opposition to his plan. Mtzt. 

If it should be remarked that this was a controversy 50. 
which lay quite out of Johnson's way, let it he remem- 
bered, that after all, his employing his powers of rea- 
soning and eloquence upon a subject which he had 
studied on the moment, is not more strange than what 
we often observe in lawyers, who, as Quicguid agunt 
homines is the matter of law-suits, are sometimes oblig- 
ed to pick up a temporary knowledge of an art or sci- 
ence, of which they understood nothing till their brief 
was delivered, and appear to be much masters of it. 
In like manner, members of the legislature frequently 

of musical terms, which do not seem much to correspond with the subject, but 
serve to make up the heterogeneous mass. To follow the Knight through all this, 
would be an useless fatigue to myself, and not a little disgusting to my readers. 
I shall, therefore, only make a few remarks upon his statement. — He seems to ex- 
ult in having detected Johnson in procuring " from a person eminently skilled in 
mathematicks and the principles of architecture, answers to a string of questions 
drawn up by himself, touching the comparative strength of Semicircular and 
elliptical arches." Now I cannot conceive how Johnson could have acted more 
wisely. Sir John complains that the opinion of that excellent mathematician, Mr. 
Thomas Simpson, did not preponderate in favour of the semicircular arch. But 
he should have known, that however eminent Mr. Simpson was in the higher 
parts of abstract mathematical science, he was little versed in mixed and practical 
mechanicks. Mr. Muller, of Woolwich Academy, the scholastick father of all the 
great engineers which this country has employed for forty years, decided the ques?- 
tion by declaring clearly in favour of the elliptical arch. 

It is ungraciouslv suggested, that Johnson's motive for opposing Mr. Mylne's 
scheme may have been his prejudice against him as a native of North-Britain ; 
when, in truth, as has been stated, he gave the aid of his able pen to a friend, who 
was one of the candidates ; and so far was he from having any illiberal antipathy 
to Air. Mylne, that he afterwards lived with that gentleman upon very agreeable 
terms of acquaintance, and dined with him at his house. 

Sir John Hawkins, indeed, gives full vent to his own prejudice in abusing Black- 
iriars-bridge, calling it " an edifice, in which beauty and symmetry are in vain 
sought for ; by which the citizens of London have perpetuated their own dis- 
grace, and subjected a whole nation to the reproach of foreigners." Whoever has 
contemplated, placldo lum'me, this stately, elegant, and airy structure, which has so 
fine an effect, especially on approaching the capital on that quarter, must wonder 
at such unjust and ill-tempered censure ; and I appeal to all foreigners of good 
taste, whether this bridge be not one of the most distinguished ornaments of Lon- 
don. As to the stability of the fabrick, it is certain that the City of London took 
every precaution to have the best Portland Stone for it ; but as this is to be found 
in the quarries belonging to the publick, under the direction of the Lords of the 
1 rcasury, it so happened that parliamentary interest, which is often the bane of 
fair pursuits, thwarted their endeavours. Notwithstanding this disadvantage, it is 
well known that not only has Blackfriars-bridge never sunk either in its foundation 
or ir. its arches, which were so much the subject of contest, but any injuries which 
it has suffered from the effects of severe frosts have been already, in some measure, 
repaired with sounder stone, and every necessary renewal can be completed at a 
moderate expence. 


1 76o. introduce and expatiate upon subjects of which they 
$5^ have informed themselves for the occasion. 
si. In 1760 he wrote " an Address of the Painters to 
George III. on his accession to the Throne of these 
Kingdoms,"f which no monarch ever ascended with 
more sincere congratulations from his people. Two 
generations of foreign princes had prepared their minds 
to rejoice in having again a King, who gloried in being 
" born a Briton." He also wrote for Mr. Baretti the 
Dedication")* of his Italian and English Dictionary, to 
the Marquis of Abreu, then Envoy-Extraordinary from 
Spain at the Court of Great-Britain. 

Johnson was now either very idle, or very busy with 
his Shakspeare ; for I can find no other publick compo- 
sition by him except an Introduction to the proceedings 
of the Committee for cloathing the French Prisoners ;* 
one of the many proofs that he was ever awake to the 
calls of humanity ; and an account which he gave in 
the Gentleman's Magazine of Mr. Tytler's acute and 
able vindication of Mary Queen of Scots.* The gener- 
osity of Johnson's feelings shines forth in the following 
sentence : " It has now been fashionable, for near halt 
a century, to defame and vilify the house of Stuart, and 
to exalt and magnify the reign of Elizabeth. The Stu- 
arts have found few apologists, for the dead cannot pay 
for praise ; and who will, without reward, oppose the 
tide of popularity ! Yet there remains still among us, 
wot wholly extinguished, a zeal for truth, a desire of es- 
tablishing right in opposition to fashion." 

In this year I have not discovered a single private 
letter written by him to any of his friends. It should 
seem, however, that he had at this period a floating in- 
tention of writing a history of the recent and wonder- 
ful successes of the British arms in all quarters of the 
^lobe ; for among his resolutions or memorandums, 
September 18, there is, "Send for books for Hist, of 
War." 1 How much is it to be regretted that this in- 
tention was not fulfilled. His majestick expression 
\vould have carried down to the latest posterity the 

; Prayers ?nd Meditations, p. 42* 


glorious achievements of his country, with the same 1760. 
fervent glow which they produced on the mind at the JJ^ 
time. He would have been under no temptation to 51. 
deviate in any degree from truth, which he held very 
sacred, or to take a licence, which a learned divine told 
me he once seemed, in a conversation, jocularly to al- 
low to historians. " There are (said he) inexcusable 
lies, and consecrated lies. For instance, we are told 
that on the arrival of the news of the unfortunate bat- 
tle of Fontenoy, every heart beat, and every eye was 
in tears. Now we know that no man eat his dinner 
the worse, but there should have been all this concern ; 
and to say there zvas, (smiling) may be reckoned a con- 
secrated lie." 

This year Mr. Murphy, having thought himself ill- 
treated by the Rev. Dr. Franklin, who was one of the 
writers of " The Critical Review," published an indig- 
nant vindication in " A Poetical Epistle to Samuel John- 
son, A. M." in which he compliments Johnson in a 
just and elegant manner : 

" Transcendant Genius ! whose prolifick vein 

" Ne'er knew the frigid poet's toil and pain ; 

" To whom Apollo opens all his store, 

" And every Muse presents her sacred lore ; 

" Say, powerful Johnson, whence thy verse is fraught 

" With so much grace, such energy of thought ; 

" Whether thy Juvenal instructs the age 

" In chaster numbers, and new-points his rage ; 

" Or fair Irene sees, alas ! too late 

" Her innocence exchanged for guilty state : 

" Whate'er you write, in every golden line 
Sublimity and elegance combine ; 
Thy nervous phrase impresses every soul, 
While harmony gives rapture to the whole." 

Again, towards the conclusion ; 

' Thou then, my friend, who see'st the dang'rous strife 
' In which some demon bids me plunge my life, 
: To the Aonian fount direct my feet, 
; Say, where the Nine thy lonely musings meet ? 




1760. ; - Where warbles to thy ear the sacred throng, 
jEtaT " Tky moral sense, thy dignity of song ? 
51. " Tell, for you can, by what unerring art 
" You wake to finer feelings every heart ; 
' In each bright page some truth important give 
" And bid to future times thy Rambler live." 

I take this opportunity to relate the manner in which 
an acquaintance first commenced between Dr. John- 
son and Mr. Murphy. During the publication of 
" The Gray's-Inn Journal," a periodical paper which 
was successfully carried on by Mr. Murphy alone, 
when a very young man, he happened to be in the 
country with Mr. Foote ; and having mentioned that 
he was obliged to go to London in order to get ready 
for the press one of the numbers of that Journal, Foote 
said to him, " You need not goon that account. Here 
is a French magazine, in which you will find a very 
pretty oriental tale ; translate that, and send it to your 
printer." Mr. Murphy having read the tale, was high- 
ly pleased with it, and followed Footed advice. When 
he returned to Town, this tale was pointed out to him 
in " The Rambler," from whence it had been translated 
into the French magazine. Mr. Murphy then waited 
upon Johnson, to explain this curious incident. His 
talents, literature, and gentleman-like manners, were 
soon perceived by Johnson, and a friendship was formed 
which was never broken. 1 

3 [When Mr. Murphy first became acquainted with Dr. Johnson, he was about 
thirty-one years old. He died at Knightsbridge, June 18, 1805, it is believed in 
his eighty-second year. 

In an account of this gentleman published recently after his death, he is report- 
ed to have said, that " he was but twenty-one, when he had the impudence to write 
a periodical paper, during the time that Johnson was publishing " the Rambler." — 
In a subsequent page, in which Mr. Boswell gives an account of his first introduc- 
tion to Johnson, will be found a striking instance of the incorrectness of Mr. Mur- 
phy's memory ; and the assertion above-mentioned, if indeed he made it, which is 
by no means improbable, furnishes an additional proof of his inaccuracy : for both 
the facts asserted are unfounded. He appears to have been eight vears older 
dian twenty-one, when he began the Gray's-Inn Journal ; and that paper, instead 
of running a race with Johnson's production, did not appear till after the closing 
of the Rambler, which ended March 14, 1752. The first number of the Gray's- 
Inn Journal made its appearance about seven months afterwards, in a newspaper 
of the time, called the Craftsman, October 21, 1752; and in that form the first 
forty-nine numbers were given to the publick. On Saturday, Sept. 29, 1753, it as- 
sumed a new form, and was published as a distinct periodical paper ; and in that 







" You that travel about the world, have more 
materials for letters, than i who stay at home : and 
should, therefore, write with frequency equal to your 
opportunities 1 should be glad to have all England 
surveyed by you, if you would impart your observations 
in narratives as agreeable as your last. Knowledge is 
always to be wished to those who can communicate it 
well. While you have been riding and running, and 
seeing the tombs of the learned, and the camps of tiie 
valiant, 1 have only staid at home, and intended to do 
great things, which I have not done. Beau 4 went away 
to Cheshire, and has not yet found his way back. 
Chambers passed the vacation at Oxford. 

" 1 am very sincerely solicitous for the preservation 
or curing of Air. Langton's sight, and am glad that the 
chirurgeon at Coventry gives him so much hope. Mr. 
Sharpe is of opinion that the tedious maturation of the 
cataract is a vulvar errour, and that it may be removed 
as soon as it is formed. This notion deserves to be con- 
sidered ; 1 doubt whether it be universally true ; but 

shape it continued to be published till the 21st of Sept. 1754, when it finally clos-> 
ed ; forming in the whole one hundred and one Essays, in the folio copy. The 
extraordinary paper mentioned in the text, is No. 38 of the second series, publish' 
ed on June 15, 1751 ; which is a retranslation from the French version of John- 
son's Rambler, No. 190. It was omitted in the republication of these Essays in 
two volumes 12mo. in which one hundred and four are found, and in which the 
papers are not always dated on the days when they really appeared ; so that the 
motto prefixed to this Anglo-Gallick Eastern tale, obscuris -vera iniwlnjins, might 
very properlv have been prefixed to this work, when republished. Mr. Murphv 
did not, I believe, wait on Johnson recently after the publication of this adumbra* 
tion of one of his Ramblers, as seems to be stated in the text ; for, in his conclud- 
ing Essay, Sept. 21, 1754, we find the following paragraph: 

" Besides, why may not a person rather choose an air of bold negligence, than 
the obscure diligence of pedants and writers of afTected phraseology. For my part, 
I have always thought an easy style more eligible than a pompous diction, lifted 
up by metaphor, amplified by epithet, and dignified by too frequent insertions o£ 
the Latin idiom." It is probable that the Rambler was here intended to be censur- 
ed, and that the author, when he wrote it was not acquainted with Johnson, whom 
from his first introduction, he endeavoured to conciliate. Their acquaint a: 
therefore, it may be presumed, did not commence till towards the end of thisyeai 
1754. Murphv however had highly praised John=on in the precedi;!^ year. No 
14 of the second series, Dec. 22, 1 758. M. \ 

4 Topham Beauclerk, Esq. 

VOL. I. , 36 


1760. if it be true in some cases, and those cases can be dis- 
^v^ tinguished, it may save a long and uncomfortable delay. 
51. ' " Of dear Mrs. Langton you give me no account ; 
which is the less friendly, as you know how highly I 
think of her, and how much I interest myself in her 
health. I suppose you told her of my opinion, and 
likewise suppose it was not followed : however, I still 
believe it to be right. 

" Let me hear from you again, wherever you are. 
or whatever you are doing ; whether you wander or 
sit still, plant trees or make Rusticks, s play with your 
sisters or muse alone ; and in return I will tell you the 
success of Sheridan, who at this instant is playing Cato, 
and has already played Richard twice. He had more 
company the second than the first night, and will make 
I believe a good figure in the whole, though his faults 
seem to be very many ; some of natural deficience, and 
some of laborious affectation. He has, I think, no 
power of assuming either that dignity or elegance which 
some men, who have little of either in common life, 
can exhibit on the stage. His voice when strained is 
unpleasing, and when low is not always heard. He 
seems to think too much on the audience, and turns 
his face too often to the galleries. 

'• However, 1 wish him well ; and among other rea- 
sons, because I like his wife. 6 

■• Make haste to write to, dear Sir, 
" Your most affectionate servant, 

:i Oct. IS, 176O. " Sam. Johnso.x 


In 1761 Johnson appears to have done little. He 
was still, no doubt, proceeding in his edition of Shak- 
speare ; but what advances he made in it cannot be 
ascertained. He certainly was at this time not active ; 
for in his scrupulous examination of himself on Easter 
eve, he laments, in his too rigorous mode of censuring 
his own conduct, that his life, since the communion of 

5 Essays with that title, written about this time by Mr. Langton, but not pub- 

6 Mrs. Sheridan was authour of " Memoirs of Miss Sydney Biddulph," a now 
of great merit, and of some other peices. — See her character, p. 305- 


the preceding Easter, had been " dissipated and use- 1761. 
less." 7 ] [e, however, contributed this year the Preface* jjJJJ 
to " Rolt's Dictionary of Trade and Commerce," in 52. 
which he displays such a clear and comprehensive knowl- 
edge of the subject, as might lead the reader to think 
that its authour had devoted all his life to it. I asked 
him, whether he knew much of Roll, and of his work. 
•• Sir, (said he) I never saw the man, and never read 
the hook. The booksellers wanted a Preface to a Dic- 
tionary of Trade and Commerce. I knew very w< 
what such a Dictionary should be, and I wrote a Prefao 
accordingly." Holt, who wrote a great deal for the 
booksellers, was, as Johnson told me, a singular char- 
acter. Though not in the least acquainted with him, 
he used to say, " 1 am just come from Sam. Johnson." 
This was a sufficient specimen of his vanity and impu- 
dence. But he gave a more eminent proof of it in our 
sister kingdom, as Dr. Johnson informed me. \\ hen 
Akenside's " Pleasures of the Imagination" first came 
out, he did not put his name to the poem. Rolt went 
over to Dublin, published an edition of it, and put his 
own name to it. I pon the fame of this he lived for 
several months, being entertained at the best tables as 
" the ingenious Mr. Rolt." 3 His conversation indeed, 
did .not discover much of the fire of a poet ; but it was 
recollected, that both Addison and Thompson were 
equally dull till excited by wine. Akenside having 
been informed of this imposition, vindicated his right 
by publishing the poem with its real authour's name. 
Several instances of such literarv fraud have been de- 
tected. The Reverend Dr. Campbell, of St. Andrews, 
wrote " An Enquiry into the original of Moral Vir- 
tue," the manuscript of which he sent to Mr. Innes, 
a clergyman in England, who was his countryman and 
acquaintance. Innes published it with his own name 

7 Prayers and Meditations, p. 44. 

£ I have had enquiry made in Ireland as to this story, but do not find it recollect- 
ed there. 1 give it on the authority of Dr. Johnson, to which, may be added that 
of the " Biographical Dictionary," and " Biographia Dramatica ;" in both of which 
it has stood many years. Mr. Malone observes, that the truth probably is. net 
:hat an edition was published with Rolt's name in the title-page, but, that the poem 
'being then anonvmous, Rolt acquiesced in its being attributed to him in conversa- 


i*6i. to it ; and before the imposition was discovered, ob« 
JE^ tained considerable promotion, as a reward of bis 
52. merit. 9 The celebrated Dr. Hugh Blair, and his 
cousin Mr. George Bannatine, when students in divi- 
nity, wrote a poem, entitled " The Resurrection," 
copies of which were handed about in manuscript. 
They were, at length, very much surprized to see a 
pompous edition of it in folio, dedicated to the Prin- 
cess Dowager of Wales, by a Dr. Douglas, as his own. 
Some years ago a little novel, entitled " The Man of 
Feeling," was assumed by Mr. Eccles, a young Irish 
clergyman, who was afterwards drowned near Bath. 
He had been at the pains to transcribe the whole book, 
with blottings, interlineations, and corrections, that it 
might be shewn to several people as an original. It 
was, in truth, the production of Mr. Henry Macken- 
zie, an attorney in the Exchequer at Edinburgh, who 
is the authour of several other ingenious pieces ; but 
the belief with regard to Mr. Eccles became so gen- 
eral, that it was thought necessary for Messieurs Stra- 
han and Cadell to publish an advertisement in the 
newspapers, contradicting the report, and mentioning 
that they purchased the copy-right of Mr. Mackenzie. 
I can conceive this kind of fraud to be very easily 
practised with successful effrontery. The Filiation of 
a literary performance is difficult of proof ; seldom is 
there any witness present at its birth. A man, either 
in confidence or by improper means, obtains possession 
of a copy of it in manuscript, and boldly publishes it 
as his own. The true authour, in many cases, may 
not be able to make his title clear. Johnson, indeed, 
from the peculiar features of his literary offspring, might 
bid defiance to any attempt to appropriate them to 
others : 

" But Shakspeare's magick could not copied be, 
" AVithin that circle none durst walk but he." 

He this year lent his friendly assistance- to correct 
and improve a pamphlet written by Mr. Gwyn, the 

9 ! have hoth the books. Innes was the clergyman who brought Psalmana^aii 
- England, and was an accomplice in his extraordinary fiction. 


architect, entitled " Thoughts on the Coronation of 1761. 
George III."* j££J; 

Johnson had now for some years admitted Mr. Ha- 50. 
retti to his intimacy ; nor did their friendship cease 
upon their being separated by Uaretti's revisiting his 
native country, as appears from Johnson's letters to 



" You reproach me very often with parsimony of 
writing ; but you may discover by the extent of my 
paper, that 1 design to recompence rarity by length. 
A short letter to a distant friend is, in my opinion, an 
insult like that of a slight bow or cursory salutation ; — 
a proof of unwillingness to do much, even where there 
is a necessity of doing something. Vet it must be re- 
membered, that he who continues the same course of 
life in the same place, will have little to tell. One 
week and one year are very like one another. The 
silent changes made by him are not always perceived ; 
and if they are not perceived, cannot be recounted. I 
have risen and lain down, talked and mused, while 
you have roved over a considerable part of Europe ; 
yet I have not envied my Baretti any of his pleasures, 
though, perhaps, I have envied others his company : 
and 1 am glad to have other nations made acquainted 
with the character of the English, by a traveller who 
has so nicely inspected our manners, and so success- 
fully studied our literature. 1 received your kind let- 
ter from Falmouth, in which you gave me notice of 
your departure for Lisbon ; and another from Lisbon, 
in which you told me, that you were to leave Portugal 
in a few days. To either of these how could any an- 
swer be returned ! 1 have had a third from Turin, com- 
plaining that 1 have not answered the former. Your 
English style still continues in its purity and vigour 
With vigour your genius will supply it ; but its purity 

1 The originals of Dr. Johnson's three letters to Mr. Baretti, which are amonp; 
the very best he ever wrote, were communicated to the proprietors of that instruc- 
tive and elegant monthly miscellany, " The European Magazine," in winch they 
first appeared 


1761. must be continued by close attention. To use two 
jjfo^ languages familiarly, and without contaminating one 
52. by the other, is very difficult : and to use more than 
two, is hardly to be hoped. The praises which some 
have received for their multiplicity of languages, may 
be sufficient to excite industry, but can hardly generate 

" 1 know not whether I can heartily rejoice at the 
kind reception which you have found, or at the popu- 
larity to which vou are exalted. I am willing that 
your merit should be distinguished ; but cannot wish 
that your affections may be gained. 1 would have you 
happy wherever you are : yet I would have you wish 
to return to England. If ever you visit us again, you 
will find the kindness of your friends undiminished. 
To tell you how many enquiries are made after you, 
would be tedious, or if not tedious, would be vain ; be- 
cause you may be told in a very few words, that all 
who knew you wish you well ; and that all that you 
embraced at your departure, will caress you at your re- 
turn : therefore do not let Italian academicians nor Ital- 
ian ladies drive us from your thoughts. You may find 
among us what you will leave behind, soft smiles and 
easv sonnets. Yet I shall not wonder if all our invita- 
tions should be rejected : for there is a pleasure in be- 
ing considerable at home, which is not easily resisted. 

" By conducting Mr. Southwell to Venice, you ful- 
filled, I know, the original contract : yet 1 would wish 
you not wholly to lose him from your notice, but to 
recommend him to such acquaintance as may best se- 
cure him from suffering by his own follies, and to take 
such general care both of his safety and his interest as 
may come within your power. His relations will thank 
you for any such gratuitous attention : at least they 
will not blame you for any evil that may happen, 
whether they thank you or not for any good. 

" You know that we have a new King and a new 
Parliament. Of the new Parliament Fitzherbert is a 
member. We were so weary of our old King, that we 
are much pleased with his successor ; of whom we are 
so much inclined to hope great things, that most of us 


begin already to believe them. The young man is l "6i. 
hitherto blameless ; but it would be unreasonable to j? tat 
expeet much from the immaturity of juvenile years, 52. 
and the ignorance of princely education. He has been 
long in the hands of the Scots, and has already favour- 
ed them more than the English will contentedly en- 
dure. But, perhaps, he scarcely knows whom he has 
distinguished, or whom he has disgusted. 

" The Artists have instituted a yearly Exhibition of 
pictures and statues, in imitation, as 1 am told, of for- 
eign academies. This year was the second Exhibition. 
They please themselves much with the multitude of 
spectators, and imagine that the English School will 
rise in reputation. Reynolds is without a rival, and 
continues to add thousands to thousands, which he de- 
serves, among other excellencies, by retaining his kind- 
ness for Baretti. This Exhibition has filled the heads 
of the Artists and lovers of art. Surely life, if it be not 
long, is tedious, since we are forced to call in the assist- 
ance of so many trifles to rid us of our time, of that time 
which never can return. 

'- I know my Baretti will not be satisfied with a let- 
ter in which 1 give him no account of myself: yet 
what account shall I give him ; I have not, since the 
day of our separation, suffered or done any thing con- 
siderable. The only change in my way of life is, that 
I have frequented the theatre more than in former sea- 
sons. But I have gone thither only to escape from my- 
self. We have had many new farces, and the comedy 
called ' The Jealous Wife/ which, though not written 
with much genius, was yet so well adapted to the stage, 
and so well exhibited by the actors, that it was crowd- 
ed for near twenty nights. 1 am digressing from my- 
self to the play-house ; but a barren plan must be fill- 
ed with episodes. Of myself 1 have nothing to say, 
but that I have hitherto lived without the concurrence 
of my own judgement; yet 1 continue to flatter my- 
self, that, when you return, you will find me mended. 
I do not wonder that, where the monastick life is per- 
mitted, every order finds votaries, and every monastery 
inhabitants. Men will submit to any rule, by which 


5761. they may be exempted from the tyranny of caprice and 
jjjj' of chance. They are glad to supply by external au- 
02. " thority their own want of constancy and resolution, and 
court the government of others, when long experience 
has convinced them of their own inability to govern 
themselves. If i were to visit Italy, my curiosity would 
be more attracted by convents than by palaces ; though 
I am afraid that 1 should find expectation in both 
places equally disappointed, and life in both places 
supported with impatience and quitted with reluctance. 
That it must be so soon quitted, is a powerful remedv 
against impatience ; but what shall free us from reluc- 
tance? Those who have endeavoured to teach us to 
die well, have taught few to die willingly : yet I cannot 
but hope that a good life might end at last in a con- 
tented death. 

" You see to what a train of thought I am drawn 
by the mention of myself. Let me now turn my at- 
tention upon you. I hope you take care to keep an 
exact journal, and to register all occurrences and obser- 
vations ; for your friends here expect such a book of 
travels as has not been often seen. You have given 
us good specimens in your letters from Lisbon. 1 wish 
you had staid longer in Spain, for no country is less 
known to the rest of Europe ; but the quickness of 
your discernment must make amends for the celerity 
of your motions. He that knows which way to direct 
his view, sees much in a little time. 

" Write to me very often, and I will not neglect to 
write to you ; and 1 may, perhaps, in time, get some- 
thing to write: at least, you will know by my letters, 
whatever else they may have or want, that 1 continue 
to be 

" Your most affectionate friend, 
"[Loudon} June 10, 176 1. " Sam. Johnson." 

In 1762 he wrote for the Reverend Dr. Kennedy, 
Rector of Bradley in Derbyshire, in a strain of very 
courtly elegance, a Dedication to the King* of that 
gentleman's work, entitled " A complete System of 
Astronomical Chronology, unfolding the Scriptures. 1 ' 

DR. JOHNSON. t>39 

He had certainly looked at this work before it was 1762. 
printed ! tor the concluding paragraph is undoubtedly JtaT. 
of his composition, of which let my readers judge : 53. 

" Thus have I endeavoured to free Religion and 
History from the darkness of a disputed and uncertain 
chronology ; from difficulties which have hitherto ap- 
peared insuperable, and darkness which no luminary 
of learning has hitherto been able to dissipate. I have 
established the truth of the Mosaical account, by evi- 
dence which no transcription can corrupt, no negligence 
can lose, and no interest can pervert, I have shewn 
that the universe bears witness to the inspiration of its 
historian, by the revolution of its orbs and the succes- 
sion of its seasons ; that the stars in their courses fight: 
against incredulity, that the works of God give hourly 
confirmation to the law, the prophets, and the gospel, 
of which one day te'leth another, and one night certijieth 
another ; and that the validity of the sacred writings 
never can be denied, while the moon shall increase and 
wane, and the sun shall know his going down." 

He this year wrote also the Dedication j" to the Earl 
of Middlesex of Mrs. Lenox's " Female Quixote," 
and the Preface to the " Catalogue of the Artist's Ex- 

The following letter, which, on account of its intrin- 
sick merit, it would have been unjust both to Johnson 
and the publick to have withheld, was obtained for mr 
by the solicitation of my friend Mr. Seward : 





"i make haste to answer vour kind letter, in 
hone of hearing again from vou before vou leave us. I 
cannot but regret that a man of your qualifications 
should find it necessary to seek an establishment in 
Guadal which if a pear- should restore to the 

French, 1 s lall think it som< alleviation of the loss, 
that it must restore likewise Dr.Staunton to the English. 

" It is a m ilancholy consideration, that so much of 
our time is necessarily to be spent upon the care of Uv- 

vol. 1. 37 


1762. Ing, and that we can seldom obtain ease in one respect 
^T^ but by resigning it in another ; yet 1 suppose we are by 
53. this dispensation not less happy in the whole, than if 
the spontaneous bounty of Nature poured all that we 
want into our hands. A few, if thev were left thus to 
themselves, would, perhaps, spend their time in lauda- 
ble pursuits ; but the greater part would prey upon the 
quiet of each other, or, in the want of other objects, 
would pn-y upon themselves. 

" This, however, is our condition, which we must im- 
prove and solace as we can : and though we cannot 
choose always our place of residence, we may in every 
place find rational amusements, and possess in every 
place the comforts of piety and a pure conscience. 

" in America there is little to be observed except 
natural curiosities. The new world must have many 
vegetables and animals with which philosophers are but 
little acquainted. 1 hope you will furnish yourself 
with some books of natural history, nnt\ some glasses 
and other instruments of observation. Trust as little as 
you can to report; examine all you can by your own 
senses. 1 do not doubt but you will be able to add 
much to knowledge, and, perhaps, to medicine. Wild 
nations trust to simples ; and, perhaps, the Peruvian 
bark is not the only specifick which those extensive 
regions may afford us. 

" Wherever you are, and whatever be your fortune, 
be certain, dear Sir, that you carrv with you my kind 
wishes; and that whether you return hither, or stay in 
the other hemisphere, to hear that you are happy will 
give pleasure to, Sir, 

" Your most affectionate humble servant, 
"■June 1, 17te2. " Sam. Johnson." 

A lady having at this time solicited him to obtain 
the Archbishop of Canterbury's patronage to have her 

ii sent to the University, one of those solicitations 
which are too frequent, where people, anxious for a 
particular object, do not consider propriety, or the op- 
portunity which the persons whom they solicit have to 
assist them, he wrote to her the following answer ; with 


a copy of which T am favoured by the Reverend Dr. 1762. 
I armer, Master of lananuel College, Cambridge. flE'tat' 


" I hope you will believe that my delay in an- 
swering your letter could proceed only from my un- 
willingness to destroy any hope that you had formed. 
J [opt* is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the 
chief happiness which this world affords : but, like all 
other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of 
hope must be expiated by pain ; and expectations im- 
properly indulged, must end in disappointment, if it 
be asked, what is the improper expectation which it is 
dangerous to indulge, experience will quickly answer. 
that it is such expectation as is dictated not by reason, 
but by desire ; expectation raised, not by the common 
occurrences of life, but by the wants of the expectant ; 
an expectation that requires the common course of 
things to be changed, and the general rules of action 
to be broken. 

" When vou made your request to me, you should 
have considered, Madam, what vou were asking. You 
ask me to solicit a great man, to whom 1 never spoke, 
for a young person whom 1 had never seen, upon a 
supposition which 1 had no means of knowing to be 
true. There is no reason why, amongst all the srreat, 
1 should chuse to supplicate the Archbishop, nor why, 
among all the possible objects of his bounty, the Arch- 
bishop should chuse your son. I know, Madam, how 
unwillingly conviction is admitted, when interest op- 
poses it ; but surely, Madam, you must allow, that 
there is no reason whv that should be done by me, 
which (-very other man may do with equal reason, and 
which, indeed, no man can do properly, without some 
very particular relation both to the Archbishop and to 
you. If 1 could help you in this exigence by any 
proper means, it would give me pleasure ; but this pro- 
posal is so very remote from usual methods, that I 
cannot comply with it, but at the risk of such answer 
and suspicions as I believe you do not wish me to un- 


1762. « I have seen your son this morning ; he seems a 

jj-^ pretty youth, and will, perhaps, find some better friend 

53. than I can procure him ; but though he should at last 

miss the University, he may still be wise, useful, and 

happy. I am, Madam, 

" Your most humble servant, 
" June 8, 1762. " Sam. Johnson." 


" sir, London, July 20, 1762. 

" However justly you may accuse me for want 
of punctuality in correspondence, I am not so far lost 
in negligence as to omit the opportunity of writing to 
you, which Mr. Beauclerk's passage through Milan 
affords me. 

" I suppose you received the Idlers, and I intend 
that you shall soon receive Shakspeare, that you may 
explain his works to the ladies of Italy, and tell thein 
the story of the editor, among the other strange narra- 
tives with which your long residence in this unknown 
region has supplied you. 

" As you have now been long away, I suppose 
your curiosity may pant for some news of your old 
friends. Miss Williams and 1 live much as we did. 
Miss Cotterel still continues to cling to Mrs. Porter, 
and Charlotte is now big of the fourth child. Mr. 
Reynolds gets six thousands a year. Levet is lately 
married, not without much suspicion that he has been 
wretchedly cheated in his match. Mr. Chambers is 
gone this day, for the first time, the circuit with the 
Judges. Mr. Richardson 1 is dead of an apoplexy, and 
his second daughter has married a merchant. 

" My vanity, or my kindness, makes me flatter my- 
self, that you would rather hear of me than of those 
whom 1 have mentioned ; but of myself I have very 
little which I care to tell. Last winter I went down 
to my native town, where I found the streets much 
narrower and shorter than I thought I had left them, in- 
habited by a new race of people, to whom I was very 

2 [Samuel Puchardson, the author of Clarissa, Sir Charles Grandison, &c He 
died July 4, 1761, aged 72, M.] 


little known. My play-fellows were grown old, and 1762. 
forced me to suspect that 1 was no longer young. My ^^ 
only remaining friend has changed his principles, and 53. 
was become the tool of the predominant faction. My 
daughter-in-law, from whom 1 expected most, and 
whom I met with sincere benevolence, has lost the 
beauty and gaiety of youth, without having gained 
much of the wisdom of age. I wandered about for 
five days, and took the first convenient opportunity 
of returning to a place, where, if there is not much hap- 
piness, there is, at least, such a diversity of good and 
evil, that slight vexations do not fix upon the heart. 

" I think in a few weeks to try another excursion ; 
though to what end ? Let me know, my Baretti, what 
has been the result of your return to your own coun- 
try : whether time has made any alteration for the 
better, and whether, when the first raptures of saluta- 
tion were over, you did not find your thoughts confess- 
ed their disappointment. 

" Moral sentences appear ostentatious and tumid, 
when they have no greater occasions than the journey 
of a wit to his own town : yet such pleasures and such 
pains make up the general mass of life ; and as noth- 
ing is little to him that feels it with great sensibility, a 
mind able to see common incidents in their real state, 
is disposed by very common incidents to very serious 
contemplations. Let us trust that a time will come, 
when the present moment shall be no longer irksome ; 
when we shall not borrow all our happiness from hope, 
which at last is to end in disappointment. 

" 1 beg that you will shew Mr. Beauclerk all the 
civilities which you have in your power ; for he has 
iilwavs been kind to me. 

" 1 have lately seen Mr. Stratico, Professor of Padua, 
who has told me of your quarrel with an Abbot of the 
Celestine order ; but had not the particulars very read\ r 
in his memory. When you write to Mr. Marsili, let 
him know that I remember him with kindness. 

" May you, my Baretti, be very happy at Milan, or 
some other place nearer to, Sir, 

" Your most affectionate humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 


1762. The accession of George the Third to the throne of 
these kingdoms, opened a new and brighter prospect to 
men of literary merit, who had been honoured with no 
mark of royal favour in the preceding reign. His pres- 
ent Majesty's education in this country, as well as his 
taste and beneficence, prompted him to be the patron 
of science and the arts; and earlv this year Johnson 
having been represented to him as a very learned and 
good man, without any certain provision, his Majesty 
was pleased to grant him a pension of three hundred 
pounds a year. The Earl of Bute, who was then Prime 
Minister, had the honour to announce this instance of 
his Sovereign's bounty, concerning which, many and 
various stories, all equally erroneous, have been propa- 
gated ; maliciously representing it as a political bribe 
to Johnson, to desert his avowed principles, and become 
the tool of a government which he held to be founded 
in usurpation. I have taken care to have it in my pow- 
er to refute them from the most authentick information. 
Lord Bute told me, that Mr. Wedderburne, now Lord 
Loughborough, was the person who first mentioned 
this subject to him. Lord Loughborough told me, 
that the pension was granted to Johnson solely as the 
reward of his literary merit, without any stipulation 
whatever, or even tacit understanding that he should 
write for administration. His Lordship added, that he 
was confident the political tracts which Johnson after- 
wards did write, as they were entirely consonant with 
his own opinions, would have been written by him, 
though no pension had been granted to him. 

Mr. Thomas Sheridan and Mr. Murphy, who then 
lived a good deal both with him and Mr. Wedderburne, 
told me, that they previously talked with Johnson upon 
this matter, and that it was perfectly understood by all 
parties that the pension was merely honorary. Sir 
Joshua Reynolds told me, that Johnson called on him 
after his Majesty's intention had been notified to him, 
and said ho wished to consult his friends as to the pro- 
priety of his accepting this mark of the royal favour, 
after the definitions which he had given in his Diction-* 
nvy of pension and pensioners. He said he should not 


have Sir Joshua's answer till next day, when he would 1762. 
call again, and desired he might think of it. Sir Josh- a^ . 
ua answered that he was clear to give his opinion then, 53, 
that there could be 00 objection to his receiving from 
the King a reward for literary merit ; and that certainly 
the definitions in his Dictionary were not applicable to 
him. Johnson, it should seem, was satisfied, for he 
did not call again till he had accepted the pension, and 
had waited on Lord Bute to thank him. He then 
told Sir Joshua that Lord Bute said to him expressly, 
'■' It is not given you for any thing you are to do, but 
for what you have done." 3 His Lordship, he said, be- 
haved in the handsomest manner. He repeated the 
words twice, that he might be sure Johnson heard 
them, and thus set his mind perfectly at ease. This 
nobleman, who has been so virulently abused, acted 
with great honour in this instance, and displayed a 
mind truly liberal. A minister of a more narrow and 
selfish disposition would have availed himself of such 
an opportunity to fix an implied obligation on a man 
of Johnson's powerful talents to give him his sup- 

Mr. Murphy and the late Mr. Sheridan severally con- 
tended for the distinction of having been the first who 
mentioned to Mr. \V edderburne that Johnson ouarht to 
have a pension. W hen I spoke of this to Lord 
Loughborough, wishing to know if he recollected the 
prime mover in the business, he said, " All his friends 
assisted :" and when I told him that Mr. Sheridan 
strenuously asserted his claim to it, his Lordship said, 
"He rang the bell." And it is but just to add, that 
Mr. Sheridan told me, that when he communicated to 
Dr. Johnson that a pension was to be granted him, he 
replied in a fervour of gratitude, " The English language 
does not afford me terms adequate to my feelings on 
this occasion. 1 must have recourse to the French. 1 
am penetrk with his Majesty's goodness." When 1 
repeated this to Dr. Johnson, he did not contradict it. 

' [This was said by Lord Bute, as Dr. Burney was informed by Johnson himself, 
in answer to a question which he put, previously to hi- acceptance of the intended 
bounty ; " Pray, my lord, what am I expected to do for this pens' M.l 

296 the LIFE ° b 

1762. His definitions of pension and pensioner, partly found- 
^^ ed on the satirical verses of Pope, which he quotes, 
53? ' may be generally true : and yet every body must allow, 
that there may be, and have been, instances of pen- 
sions given and received upon liberal and honourable 
terms. Thus, then, it is clear, that there was nothing 
inconsistent or humiliating in Johnson's accepting of a 
pension so unconditionally and so honourably offered 

to him. 

But I shall not detain my readers longer by any 
words of my own, on a subject on which I am happily 
enabled, by the favour of the Earl of Bute, to present; 
them with what Johnson himself wrote ; his lordship 
having been pleased to communicate to me a copy of 
the following letter to his late father, which does great 
honour both to the writer, and to the noble person to 
whom it is addressed : 

45 MY LORD, 

" When the bills were yesterday delivered to me 
by Mr. Wedderburne, I was informed by him of the fu- 
ture favours which his Majesty has, by your Lordship's 
recommendation, been induced to intend for me. 

" Bounty always receives part of its value from the 
manner in which it is bestowed ; your Lordship's kind- 
ness includes every circumstance that can gratify deli- 
cacy, or enforce obligation. You have conferred your 
favours on a man who has neither alliance nor interest, 
who has not merited them by services, nor courted 
them by officiousness ; you have spared him the shame 
of solicitation, and the anxiety of suspense. 

" What has been thus elegantly given, will, I hope, 
not be reproachfully enjoyed ; I shall endeavour to 
give your Lordship the only recompense which gene- 
rosity desires, — the gratification of finding that your 
benefits are not improperly bestowed. lam, my Lord, 
" Your Lordship's most obliged, 
" Most obedient, and most humble servant 
" July 20, 1769. " Sam. Johnson. 



This year his friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, paid a vis- 1762. 
it of some weeks to his native country, Devonshire, in JT t ^ 
which he was accompanied by Johnson, who was much 53. 
pleased with this jaunt, and declared he had derived 
from it a great accession of new ideas. He was enter- 
tained at the seats of several noblemen and gentlemen 
in the west of England ;* but the greatest part of this 
time was passed at Plymouth, where the magnificence 
of the navy, the ship-building and all its circumstances, 
afforded him a grand subject of contemplation. The 
Commissioner of the Dock-yard paid him the compli- 
ment of orderino- the yatcht to convey him and his 
friend to the Eddystone, to which they accordingly 
sailed. But the weather was so tempestuous that they 
could not land. 

Reynolds and he were at this time the guests of Dr. 
Mudge, the celebrated surgeon, and now physician of 
that place, not more distinguished for quickness of 
parts and variety of knowledge, than loved and esteem- 
ed for his amiable manners ; and here .Johnson formed 
an acquaintance with Dr. Mudge's father, that very 
eminent divine, the Reverend Zachariah Mudge, pre- 
bendary of Exeter, who was idolised in the west, both 
for his excellence as a preacher and the uniform perfect 
propriety of his private conduct. He preached a ser- 
mon purposely that Johnson might hear him ; and we 
shall see afterwards that Johnson honoured his memo- 
ry by drawing his character. While Johnson was at 
Plymouth, he saw a great many of its inhabitants, 
and was not sparing of his very entertaining conversa- 
tion. It was here that he made that, frank and truly 
original confession, that " ignorance, pure ignorance/' 
was the cause of a wrong definition in his Dictionary 
of the word pastern* to the no small surprise of the 

4 At one of these seats Dr. Amyat, Physician in London, told me he happened 
to meet him. In order to amuse him till dinner should be ready, he was taken out 
to walk in the garden. The master of the house thinking it proper to introduce 
something scientifick into the conversation, addressed him thus : " Are you a bot- 
anist. Dr. Jolmson ?" " No, Sir, (answered Johnson,) I am not a botanist; and, (al- 
itiding, no doubt, to his near sightedness) should I wish to become a botanist. I 
Jfinst firot turn myself into a reptile." 

s See p. 233. 

vol. i. 38 


1762. Lady who put the question to him ; who having the 

j^'aT most profound reverence for his character, so as almost 

53. to suppose him endowed with infallibility, expected to 

hear an explanation (of what, to be sure, seemed strange 

to a common reader,) drawn from some deep-learned 

source with which she was unacquainted. 

Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom I was obliged for my 
information concerning this excursion, mentions a very 
characteristical anecdote of Johnson while at Ply- 
mouth. Having observed, that in consequence of the 
Dock-yard a new town had arisen about two miles off 
as a rival to the old ; and knowing from his sagacity, 
and just observation of human nature, that it is certain 
if a man hates at all, he will hate his next neighbour ; 
he concluded that this new and risino; town could not 
but excite the envy and jealousy of the old, in which 
conjecture he was very soon confirmed ; he therefore 
set himself resolutely on the side of the old town, the 
established town, in which his lot was cast, considering 
it as a kind of duty to stand by it. He accordingly en- 
tered warmly into its interests, and upon every occa- 
sion talked of the dockers, as the inhabitants of the 
new town were called, as upstarts and aliens. Ply- 
mouth is very plentifully supplied with water by a riv- 
er brought into it from a great distance, which is so 
abundant that it runs to waste in the town. The 
Dock, or New-town, being totally destitute of water, 
petitioned Plymouth that a small portion of the con- 
duit might be permitted to go to them, and this was 
now under consideration. Johnson, affecting to enter- 
tain the passions of the place, was violent in opposi- 
tion ; and half-laughing at himself for his pretended 
zeal, where he had no concern, exclaimed, " No, no ! 
I am against the dockers ; I am a Plymouth-man. 
Rogues ! let them die of thirst. They shall not have 
a drop !" 6 

Lord Macartney obligingly favoured me with a cop\ 
of the following letter, in his own hand-writing, from 

* [A friend of mine once heard him, during this visit, exclaim with the utmost 
vehemence, " I hate a Docker." J. B.] 


the original, which was found, by the present Earl of 1762. 
Bute, among his father's papers. jEtat. 



" That generosity, by which I was recommend- 
ed to the favour of his Majesty, will not beoffended at 
a solicitation necessary to make that favour permanent 
and effectual. 

" The pension appointed to be paid me at Michael- 
mas I have not received, and know not where or from 
whom I am to ask it. I beg, therefore, that your lord- 
ship will be pleased to supply Mr. Wedderburne with 
such directions as may be necessary, which, I believe, 
his friendship will make him think it no trouble to con- 
vey to me. 

" To interrupt your Lordship, at a time like this, 
with such petty difficulties, is improper and unseason- 
able ; but your knowledge of the world has long 
since taught you, that every man's affairs, however lit- 
tle, are important to himself. Every man hopes that 
he shall escape neglect ; and, with reason, may every 
man, whose vices do not preclude his claim ; expect 
favour from that beneficence which has been extend- 
ed to, 

" My Lord, 

" Your Lordship's 
" Most obliged, 
" And 

" Most humble servant, 
" Temple Lane, Nov. 3, 1762. " Sam. Johnson.'" 


" sir, London, Dec. 21, 1762. 

"You are not to suppose, with all your conviction 
of my idleness, that I have passed all this time without 
writing to my Baretti. I gave a letter to Mr. Beau- 
clerk, who in my opinion, and in his own, was hasten- 
ing to Naples for the recovery of his health ; but he 
has stopped at Paris, and I know not when he will pro- 
reed. Langton is with him. 


1762. « l WJ il no t trouble you with speculations about 
2tau P eace an ^ war. The good or ill success of battles and 
53. embassies extends itself to a very small part of domes- 
tick life : we all have good and evil, which we feel more 
sensibly than our petty part of publick miscarriage or 
prosperity. I am sorry for your disappointment, with 
which you seem more touched than I should expect a 
man of your resolution and experience to have been, 
did I not know that general truths are seldom applied 
to particular occasions ; and that the fallacy of our self- 
love extends itself as wide as our interest or affections. 
Every man believes that mistresses are unfaithful, and 
patrons capricious ; but he excepts his own mistress, 
and his own patron. We have all learned that great- 
ness is negligent and contemptuous, and that in Courts 
life is often languished away in ungratified expecta- 
tion ; but he that approaches greatness, or glitters in a 
Court, imagines that destiny has at last exempted him 
from the common lot. 

" Do not let such evils overwhelm you as thousands 
have suffered, and thousands have surmounted ; but 
turn your thoughts with vigour to some other plan of 
life, and keep always in your mind, that with due sub- 
mission to Providence, a man of genius has been sel- 
dom ruined but by himself. Your Patron's weakness 
or insensibility will finally do you little hurt, if he is 
not assisted by your own passions. Of your love I 
know not the propriety, nor can estimate the power ; 
but in love, as in every other passion of which hope is 
the essence, we ought always to remember the uncer- 
tainty of events. There is, indeed, nothing that so 
much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of 
passing life with an amiable woman ; and if all would 
happen that a lover fancies, I know not what other ter- 
restrial happiness would deserve pursuit. But love 
and marriage are different states. Those who are to 
suffer the evils together, 7 and to suffer often for the 
sake of one another, soon lose that tenderness of look, 

7 [Johnson probably wrote " the evils ef life together." The words in Italicks, 
however, are not found in Baretti's original edition of this letter, but they may- 
have been omitted inadvertently either in his transcript or at the press. M. | 


and that benevolence of mind, which arose from the 1763. 
participation of unmingled pleasure and successive ]£{^ 
amusement. A woman, we are sure, will not be al- 54. 
ways fair ; we are not sure she will always be virtuous : 
and man cannot retain through life that respect and as- 
siduity by which he pleases for a day or for a month. 
I do not, however, pretend to have discovered that life 
has any thing more to be desired than a prudent and 
virtuous marriage ; therefore know not what counsel 
to give you. 

" If you can quit your imagination of love and great- 
ness, and leave your hopes of preferment and bridal 
raptures to try once more the fortune of literature and 
industry, the way through France is now open. We 
flatter ourselves that we shall cultivate, with great dili- 
gence, the arts of peace ; and every man will be wel- 
come among us who can teach us any thing we do not 
know. For your part, you will find all your old friends 
willing to receive you. 

" Reynolds still continues to increase in reputation 
and in riches. Miss Williams, who very much loves 
you, goes on in the old way. Miss Cotterel is still 
with Mrs. Porter. Miss Charlotte is married to Dean 
Lewis, and has three children. Mr. Levet has married 
a street-walker. But the gazette of my narration must 
now arrive to tell you, that Bathurst went physician to 
the army, and died at the Havannah. 

" I know not whether I have not sent you word that 
Huggins and Richardson are both dead. When we 
see our enemies and friends gliding away before us, let 
us not forget that we are subject to the general law of 
mortality, and shall soon be where our doom will be 
fixed for ever. 

" I pray God to bless you, and am, Sir, 

" Your most affectionate humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 

" Write soon." 

In 1763 he furnished to " The Poetical Calendar," 
published by Fawkes and Woty, a character of Collins,* 
which he afterwards ingrafted into his entire life of that 

.302 HIE LIFE Oi 

J 763. admirable poet, in the collection of lives which he 
Sat! wrote * or tne body of English poetry, formed and pub- 
54. ' lished by the booksellers of London. His account of 
the melancholy depression with which Collins was se- 
verely afflicted, and which brought him to his grave, 
is, I think, one of the most tender and interesting pas- 
sages in the whole series of his writings. He also fa- 
voured Mr. Hoole with the Dedication of his transla- 
tion of Tasso to the Queen,* which is so happily con- 
ceived and elegantly expressed, that 1 cannot but point 
it out to the peculiar notice of my readers. 3 

This is to me a memorable year ; for in it I had the 
happiness to obtain the acquaintance of that extraordi- 
nary man whose memoirs 1 am now writing ; an ac- 
quaintance which I shall ever esteem as one of the most 
fortunate circumstances in my life. Though then but 
two-and-twenty, 1 had for several years read his works 
with delight and instruction, and had the highest rever- 
ence for their authour, which had grown up in my fan- 
cy into a kind of mysterious veneration, by figuring to 
myself a state of solemn elevated abstraction, in which 
I supposed him to live in the immense metropolis of 
London. Mr. Gentleman, a native of Ireland, who 
passed some years in Scotland as a player, and as an in- 
structor in the English language, a man whose talents 


E " Madam, 

" To approach the high and illustrious has been in all ages the privilege of 
Poets ; and though translators cannot justly claim the same honour, yet thev nat- 
urally follow their authours as attendants ; and I hope that in return for having 
enabled Tasso to diffuse his fame through the British dominions, I may be intro- 
duced by him to the presence of Your Majesty. 

"Tasso has a peculiar claim to Your Majesty's favour, as follower and pane- 
gyrist of the House of Este, which has one common ancestor with the House of 
Hanover ; and in reviewing his life it is not easy to forbear a wish that he had 
lived in a happier time, when he might among the descendants of that illustrious 
family have found a more liberal and potent patronage. 

" I cannot but observe, Madam, how unequally reward is proportioned to merit, 
when I reflect that the happiness which was withheld from Tasso is reserved for 
me ; and that the poem which once hardly procured to its authour the counte- 
nance of the Princes of Ferrara, has attracted to its translator the favourable no- 
rice of a British Queen. 

" Had this been the fate of Tasso, he would have been able to have celebrated the 
condescension of Your Majesty in nobler language, but could not have felt it 
with more ardent gratitude than, 

" Madam, 

,l Your Majesty's 

" Most faithful and devoted servant.'' 


and worth were depressed by misfortunes, had given rne 1763. 
a representation of the figure and manner of Diction- $^ 
ary Johnson ! as he was then generally called ; 9 and ,34. 
during my first visit to London, which was for three 
months in 1760, Mr. Derrick the poet, who was Gen- 
tleman's friend and countryman, flattered me with 
hopes that he would introduce me to Johnson, an hon- 
our of which 1 was very ambitious. But he never 
found an opportunity ; which made me doubt that he 
had promised to do what was not in his power ; till John- 
son some years afterwards told me, " Derrick, Sir, 
might verv well have introduced vou. I had a kindness 
for Derrick, and am sorry he is dead." 

In the summer of 1761 Mr. Thomas Sheridan was at 
Edinburgh, and delivered lectures upon the English 
Language and Publicfc Speaking to large and respecta- 
ble audiences. 1 was often in his company, and heard 
him frequently expatiate upon Johnson's extraordinary 
knowledge, talents, and virtues, repeat his pointed say- 
ings, describe his particularities, and boast of his being- 
his guest sometimes till two or three in the morning. 
At his house I hoped to have many opportunities of 
seeing the sage, as Mr. Sheridan obligingly assured me 
I should not be disappointed. 

When 1 returned to London in the end of 1762, to 
my surprise and regret I found an irreconcileable dif- 
ference had taken place between Johnson and Sher- 
idan. A pension of two hundred pounds a year had 
been given to Sheridan. Johnson, who, as has been 
already mentioned, thought slightingly of Sheridan's 
art, upon hearing that he was also pensioned, exclaimed, 
" What ! have they given him a pension ? Then it is 
time for me to give up mine." Whether this proceeded 
from a momentary indignation, as if it were an affront to 
his exalted merit that a player should be rewarded in the 
same manner with him, or was the sudden effect of a 

* As great men of antiquity such as Scipio had an epithet added to 
their names, in consequence of some celebrated action, so my illustrious friend was 
«ften called Dictionary Johnson, from that wonderful atchievement of genius 
and labour, his "Dictionary of the English Language ;" tV merit efv/Kieh Icoflr 
template with more and mor ■ . di : ,; r:4» : ':r. 


1763. fit of peevishness, it was unluckily said, and, indeed, 
JJ^ cannot be justified. Mr. Sheridan's pension was grant- 
34. ed to him not as a player, but as a sufferer in the cause 
of government, when he was manager of the Theatre 
Royal in Ireland, when parties ran high in 1753. And 
it must also be allowed that he was a man of literature, 
and had considerably improved the arts of reading and 
speaking with distinctness and propriety. 

Besides, Johnson should have recollected that Mr. 
Sheridan taught pronunciation to Mr. Alexander Wed- 
derburne, whose sister was married to Sir Harry Er- 
skine, an intimate friend of Lord Bute, who was the 
favourite of the King ; and surely the most outrageous 
Whig will not maintain, that, whatever ought to be the 
principle in the disposal of offices, a pension ought never 
to be granted from any bias of court connection. Mr. 
Macklin, indeed, shared with Mr. Sheridan the honour 
of instructing Mr. Wedderburne ; and though it was 
too late in life for a Caledonian to acquire the genuine 
English cadence, yet so successful were Mr. Wedder- 
burne's instructors, and his own unabating endeavours, 
that he got rid of the coarse part of his Scotch accent, 
retaining only as much of the " native wood-note wild/' 
as to mark his country ; which, if any Scotchman 
should affect to forget, I should heartily despise him. 
Notwithstanding the difficulties which are to be en- 
countered by those who have not had the advantage of 
an English education, he by degrees formed a mode of 
speaking, to which Englishmen do not deny the praise 
of elegance. Hence his distinguished oratory, which 
he exerted in his own country as an advocate in the 
Court of Session, and a ruling elder of the Kirk, has 
had its fame and ample reward, in much higher spheres. 
When I look back on this noble person at Edinburgh, 
in situations so unworthy of his brilliant powers, and 
behold Lord Loughborough at London, the change 
seems almost like one of the metamorphoses in Ovic! ; 
and as his two preceptors, by refining his utterance, 
gave currency to his talents, we may say in the words 
of that poet, " Nam vos mutasiis." 

Bfc. JOHNSON. 306 

i have dwelt the longer upon this remarkable in- 1763. 
stance of successful parts and assiduity ; because it JeJ££ 
affords animating encouragement to other gentlemen 54. 
of North-Britain to try their fortunes in the southern 
part of the island, where they may hope to gratify their 
utmost ambition ; and now that we are one people by 
the Union, it would surely be illiberal to maintain, that 
they have not an equal title with the natives of any 
other part of his Majesty's dominions. 

Johnson complained that a man who disliked him 
repeated his sarcasm to Mr. Sheridan, without telling 
him what followed, which was, that after a pause he 
added, " However, I am glad that Mr. Sheridan has a 
pension, for he is a very good man." Sheridan could 
never forgive this hasty contemptuous expression. It 
rankled in his mind ; and though I informed him of 
all that Johnson said, and that he would be very glad 
to meet him amicably, he positively declined repeated 
offers which I made, and once went off abruptly from 
a house where he and 1 were engaged to dine, because 
he was told that Dr. Johnson was to be there. 1 have 
no sympathetick feeling with such persevering resent- 
ment, it is painful when there is a breach between 
those who have lived together socially and cordially ; 
and 1 wonder that there is not, in all such cases, a 
mutual wish that it should be healed. I could perceive 
that Mr. Sheridan was by no means satisfied with John- 
son's acknowledging him to be a good man. That 
could not soothe his injured vanity. I could not but 
smile, at the same time that I was offended, to observe 
Sheridan in the Life of Swift, which he afterwards pub- 
lished, attempting, in the writhings of his resentment, 
to depreciate Johnson, by characterising him as " A 
writer of gigantick fame, in these days of little men ;" 
that very Johnson whom he once so highly admired 
and venerated. 

This rupture with Sheridan deprived Johnson of one 
of his most agreeable resources for amusement in his 
lonely evenings ; for Sheridan's well-informed, animat- 
ed, and bustlinsr mind never suffered conversation to 
stagnate ; and Mrs. Sheridan was a most agreeable 
vol. j. 39 


1763. companion to an intellectual man. She was sensible, 
iEtat' ingenious, unassuming, yet communicative. I recol- 

54. lect, with satisfaction, many pleasing hours which I pass- 
ed with her under the hospitable roof of her husband, 
who was to me a very kind friend. Her novel, entitled 
" Memoirs of Miss Sydney Biddulph," contains an ex- 
cellent moral, while it inculcates a future state of re- 
tribution ;"* and what it teaches is impressed upon the 
mind by a series of as deep distress as can affect* 
humanity, in the amiable and pious heroine who goes 
to her grave unrelieved, but resigned, and full of hope 
of " heaven's mercy." Johnson paid her this high 
compliment upon it : "I know not, Madam, that you 
have a right, upon moral principles, to make your read- 
ers suffer so much." 

Mr. Thomas Da vies the actor, who then kept a 
bookseller's shop in llussel-street, Covent-garden, 1 
told me that Johnson was very much his friend, and 

: My position has been very well illustrated by Mr. Belsham of Bedford, in his 
Essay on Dramatick Poetry. " The fashionable doctrine (says he) both of moral- 
ists and criticks in these times is, that virtue and happiness are constant concomi- 
tants ; and it is regarded as a kind of dramatick impiety to maintain that virtue 
should not be rewarded, nor vice punished in the last scene of the last act of every 
'.ragedy. This conduct in our modern poets is, however, in my opinion, extreme- 
ly injudicious ; for, it labours in vain to inculcate a doctrine in theory, which every 
one knows to be false in fact, i/iz. that virtue in real life is always productive of 
happiness ; and vice of misery. Thus Congreve concludes the Tragedy of ' The 
Mourning Bride' with the following foolish couplet : 

' For blessings ever wait on virtuous deeds, 
' And, though a late, a sure reward succeeds.' 

" When a man eminently virtuous, a Brutus, a Cato, or a Socrates finally sink 
under the pressure of accumulated misfortune, we are not only led to entertain a 
more indignant hatred of vice, than if he rose from his distress, but we are inevi- 
tably induced to cherish the sublime idea that a day of future retribution will ar- 
rive when he shall receive not merely poetical, but real and substantial justice." 
Essays Philosophical, Historical, and Literary, London, 1791, Vol. li. 3vo. p. 317. 

This is well reasoned and well expressed. I wish, indeed, that the ingenious au- 
thour had not thought it necessary to introduce auy instance of " a man eminently 
virtuous ;" as he would then have avoided mentioning such a ruffian as Brutus un- 
der that description. Mr. Belsham discovers in his " Essays" so much reading and 
thinking, and good composition, that I regret his not having been fortunate enough 
to be educated a member of our excellent national establishment. Had he not 
been nursed in nonconformity, he probably would not have been tainted with 
those heresies (as I sincerely, and on no slight investigation, think them) both in 
religion and politicks, which, while I read, 1 am sure, with candour, I cannot read 
without offence. 

' No. 8. — The very place where I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the 
trious subject of this work, deserves to be particularly marked. I never pas? 
. it, without ft ■ 1 reverence and regret. 



came frequently to his house, where he more than 1763. 
once invited me to meet him ; but by some unlucky )f^ 
accident or other he was prevented from coming to us. 54. 

Mr. Thomas Davies was a man of good understand- 
ing and talents, with the advantage of a liberal educa- 
Hon. Though somewhat pompous, he was an enter- 
taining companion ; and his literary performances have 
no inconsiderable share of merit. He was a friendly 
and very hospitable man. Both he and his wife, (who 
has been celebrated for her beauty,) though upon the 
stage for many years, maintained an uniform decency 
of character ; and Johnson esteemed them, and lived 
in as easy an intimacy with them as with any family 
which he used to visit. Mr. Davies recollected several 
of Johnson's remarkable sayings, and was one of the 
best of the many imitators of his voice and manner, 
while relating them. He increased my impatience 
more and more to see the extraordinary man whose 
works I highly valued, and whose conversation was re- 
ported to be so peculiarly excellent. 

At last, on Monday the 16th of Mav, when I was 
sitting in Mr. Davies's back-parlour, after having drunk 
tea with him and Mrs. Davies, Johnson unexpectedly 
came into the shop ;* and Mr. Davies having perceived 
him through the glass-door in the room in which we 
were sitting, advancing towards us, — he announced his 
awful approach to me, somewhat in the manner of an 
actor in the part of Horatio, when he addresses Hamlet 
on the appearance of his father's ghost, " Look, my 
Lord, it comes." I found that I had a very perfect 
idea of Johnson's figure, from the portrait of him paint- 
ed by Sir Joshua Reynolds soon after he had published 
his Dictionary, in the attitude of sitting in his easy 

4 Mr. Murphv in his " Essay on the Life and Genius of Dr. Johnson," has given 
an account of this meeting considerably different from mine, I am persuaded with- 
out any consciousness of errour. His memory, at the end of near thirty years, has 
undoubtedly deceived him, and he supposes himself to have been present at a scene, 
which he has probably heard inaccurately described by others. In my note taken 
on toe very day, in which I am confident 1 marked every thing material that passed, 
no mention is made of this gentleman ; and I am sure, that I should not have omit- 
ted one so well known in the literary world. It may easily be imagined that this 
my first interview with Dr. Johnson, with all its circumstances, made a strong im- 
pression on my mind, and would be registered with peculiar attention. 

308 THE LIFE Of 

1763. chair in deep meditation ; which was the first picture 
^^ his friend did for him, which Sir Joshua very kindly 
54. presented to me, and from which an engraving has been 
made for this work. Mr. Davies mentioned my name, 
and respectfully introduced me to him. I was much 
agitated ; and recollecting his prejudice against the 
Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, 
61 Don't tell where I come from.' 1 — " From Scotland," 
cried Davies, roguishly. " Mr. Johnson, (said 1) I do 
indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it." I 
am willing to flatter myself that I meant this as light 
pleasantry to sooth and conciliate him, and not as an 
humiliating abasement at the expence of my country. 
But however that might be, this speech was somewhat 
unlucky : for with that quickness of wit for which he 
was so remarkable, he seized the expression " come 
from Scotland," which I used in the sense of being of 
that country ; and, as if 1 had said that I had come 
away from it, or left it, retorted, " That, Sir, I find, is 
what a very great many of your countrymen cannot 
help." This stroke stunned me a good deal ; and when 
we had sat down, I felt mvself not a little embarrassed, 
and apprehensive of what might come next. He then 
addressed himself to Davies : " What do you think of 
Garrick 1 He has refused me an order for the play for 
Miss Williams, because he knows the house will be 
full, and that an order would be worth three shillings." 
Eager to take any opening to get into conversation 
with him, I ventured to say, " O, Sir, I cannot think 
Mr. Garrick would grudge such a trifle to you." " Sir, 
(said he, with a stern look,) I have known David Gar- 
rick longer than you have done : and I know no right 
you have to talk to me on the subject." Perhaps I 
deserved this check ; for it was rather presumptuous in 
me, an entire stranger, to express any doubt of the jus- 
tice of his animadversion upon his old acquaintance and 
pupil. 5 I now felt myself much mortified, and began 

5 That this was a momentary sally against Garrick there can be no doubt ; for 
at Johnson's desire he had, some years before, given a benefit-night at his theatre 
io this very person, by which she had got two hundred pounds. Johnson, indeed, 
upon all other occasions, when I was in his company, praised the very liberal char- 


10 think that the hope which I had long indulged of 1763. 
obtaining his acquaintance was blasted. And, in truth, ^tat! 
had not my ardour been uncommonly strong, and my 54. 
resolution uncommonly persevering, so rough a recep- 
tion might have deterred me for ever from making any 
further attempts. Fortunately, however, 1 remained 
upon the field not wholly discomfited ; and was soon 
rewarded by hearing some of his conversation, of which 
I preserved the following short minute, without mark- 
ing the questions and observations by which it was 

" People (he remarked) may be taken in once, who 
imagine that an authour is greater in private life than 
other men. Uncommon parts require uncommon op- 
portunities for their exertion. 

" in barbarous society, superiority of parts is of real 
consequence. Great strength or great wisdom is of 
much value to an individual. But in more polished 
times there are people to do every thing for money ; 
and then there are a number of other superiorities, 
such as those of birth and fortune, and rank, that dissi- 
pate men's attention, and leave no extraordinary share 
of respect for personal and intellectual superiority. 
This is wisely ordered by Providence, to preserve some 
equality among mankind." 

" Sir, this book (' The Elements of Criticism,' 
which he had taken up,) is a pretty essay, and deserves 
to be held in some estimation, though much of it is 

Speaking of one who with more than ordinary bold- 
ness attacked publick measures and the royal family, 
he said, " I think he is safe from the law, but he is 
an abusive scoundrel ; and instead of applying to my 
Lord Chief Justice to punish him, I would send half 
a dozen footmen and have him well ducked." 

" The notion of liberty amuses the people of Eng- 
land, and helps to keep off the tcedium vitce. When a 

ity of Garrick. I once mentioned to him, " It is observed, Sir, that you attack 
Garrick yourself, but will euffer nobody eke t<> do it." Johnson, (smiling) " Why, 
Sir, that is true." 


1763. butcher tells you that his heart bleeds for his country, 
j?^ he has, in fact, no uneasy feeling." 
54. " Sheridan will not succeed at Bath with his ora- 
tory. Ridicule has gone down before him, and, I 
doubt, Derrick is his enemy. 6 

" Derrick may do very well, as long as he can out- 
run his character ; but the moment his character gets 
up with him, it is all over." 

It is, however, but just to record, that some years 
afterwards, when I reminded him of this sarcasm, he 
said, " Well, but Derrick has now got a character 
that he need not run away from." 

1 was highly pleased with the extraordinary vigour 
of his conversation, and regretted that I was drawn 
away from it by an engagement at another place. I 
had, for a part of the evening, been left alone with 
him, and had ventured to make an observation now 
and then, which he received very civilly ; so that I 
was satisfied that though there was a roughness in his 
manner, there was no ill-nature in his disposition. 
Davics followed me to the door, and when I complain- 
ed to him a little of the hard blows which the great 
man had given me, he kindly took upon him to console 
me by saying, " Don't be uneasy. I can see he likes 
you very well." 

A few days afterwards I called on Davies, and asked 
him if he thought I might take the liberty of waiting 
on Mr. Johnson at his chambers in the Temple. He 
said I certainly might, and that Mr. Johnson would 
take it as a compliment. So upon Tuesday the 24th 
of May, after having been enlivened by the witty sal- 
lies of Messieurs Thornton, Wilkes, Churchill and 
Lloyd, with whom I had passed the morning, I boldly 
repaired to Johnson. His Chambers were on the first 
floor of No. 1, Inner-Temple-lane, and I entered them 
with an impression given me by the Reverend Dr. 
Blair, of Edinburgh, who had been introduced to him 
not long before, and described his having " found the 

6 Mr. Sheridan was then reading lectures upon Oratory at Bath, where Derrick 
;vas master of the Ceremonies ; or, as the phrase is, King, 


Giant in his den ;" an expression, which, when I came 1763. 
to be pretty well acquainted with Johnson, 1 repeated J^ 
to him, and he was diverted at this picturesque account 54 . 
of himself. Dr. Blair had been presented to him by 
Dr. James Fordyce. At this time the controversy con- 
cerning the pieces published by Mr. James Macpher- 
son, as translations of Ossian, was at its height. John- 
son had all along- denied their authenticity ; and, what 
was still more provoking to their admirers, maintained 
that they had no merit. The subject having been in- 
troduced by Dr. Fordyce, Dr. Blair, relying on the in- 
ternal evidence of their antiquity, asked Dr. Johnson 
whether he thought any man of a modern age could have 
written such poems ? Johnson replied, " Yes, Sir, 
many men, many women, and many children." ohn- 
son, at this time, did not know that Dr. Blair had just, 
published a Dissertation, not only defending their au- 
thenticity, but seriously ranking them with the poems 
of Homer and Virgil ; anil when he was afterwards in- 
formed of this circumstance, he expressed some dis- 
pleasure at Dr. Fordyce's having suggested the topick, 
and said, " I am not sorry that they got thus much 
for their pains. Sir, it was like leading one to talk 
of a book, when the authour is concealed behind the 

He received me very courteously ; but, it must be 
confessed, that his apartment, and furniture, and morn- 
ing dress, were sufficiently uncouth. His brown suit 
of cloaths looked very rusty ; he had on a little old 
shrivelled unpowdered wig, which was too small for 
his head ; his shirt-neck and knees of his breeches 
were loose ; his black worsted stockings ill drawn up ; 
and he had a pair of unbuckled shoes by way of 
slippers. But all these slovenly particularities were 
forgotten the moment that he bei?an to talk. Some 
gentlemen, whom I do not recollect, were sitting with 
him ; and when they went away, I also rose ; but he 
said to me, " Nay, don't go." — " Sir, (said I,) 1 am 
afraid that 1 intrude upon you. It is benevolent to al- 
low me to sit and hear you." He seemed pleased with 
this compliment, which I sincerely paid him, and an- 


1763. svvered, " Sir, I am obliged to any man who visits me." 
jJJ^ I have preserved the following short minute of what 
54, ' passed this day. 

" Madness frequently discovers itself merely by un- 
necessary deviation from the usual modes of the world. 
My poor friend Smart shewed the disturbance of his 
mind, by falling upon his knees, and saying his prayers 
in the street, or in any other unusual place. Now al- 
though, rationally speaking, it is greater madness not 
to pray at all, than to pray as Smart did, I am afraid 
there are so many who do not pray, that their under- 
standing is not called in question/' 

Concerning this unfortunate poet, Christopher Smart, 
who was confined in a mad-house, he had, at another 
time, the following conversation with Dr. Burney. — ■ 
Burney. " How does poor Smart do, Sir ; is he likely 
to recover 1" Johnson. " It seems as if his mind had 
ceased to struggle with the disease ; for he grows fat 
upon it." Burney. "Perhaps, Sir, that may be from 
want of exercise." Johnson. " No, Sir; he has part- 
ly as much exercise as he used to have, for he digs in 
the garden. Indeed, before his confinement, he used 
for exercise to walk to the alehouse ; but he was carri- 
ed back again. I did not think he ought to be shut up. 
His infirmities were not noxious to society. He insist- 
ed on people praying with him ; and Vd as lief pray 
with Kit Smart as any one else. Another charge was, 
that he did not love clean linen ; and I have no passion 
for it."— 

Johnson continued. " Mankind have a great aver- 
sion to intellectual labour ; but even supposing knowl- 
edge to be easily attainable, more people would be con- 
tent to be ignorant than would take even a little trou- 
ble to acquire it." 

" The morality of an action depends on the motive 
from which we act. If 1 fling half a crown to a beggar 
with intention to break his head, and he picks it up 
and buys victuals with it, the physical effect is good ; 
but, with respect to me, the action is very wrong. So, 
religious exercises, if not performed with an intention 
to please God, avail us nothing. As our Saviour says 


of those who perform them from other motives, * Veri- 1763. 
Jy they have their reward/ jEuu! 

" The Christian religion has very strong evidences. 54. 
It, indeed, appears in some degree strange to reason ; 
but in History we have undoubted facts, against which, 
in reasoning a priori, we have more arguments than we 
have for them ; but then, testimony has great weight, 
and casts the balance. I would recommend to every 
man whose faith is yet unsettled, Grotius, — Dr. Fear- 
son, — and Dr. Clarke." 

Talking of Garrick, he said, " He is the first man 
in the world for sprightly conversation " 

When I rose a second time he again pressed me to 
stay, which I did. 

He told me, that he generally went abroad at four 
in the afternoon, and seldom came home till two in the 
morning. 1 took the liberty to ask if he did not think 
it wrong to live thus, and not make more use of his 
great talents. He owned it was a bad habit. On re- 
viewing, at the distance of many years, my journal of 
this period, I wonder how, at my first visit, I ventured 
to talk to him so freely, and that he bore it with so 
much indulgence. 

Before we parted, he was so good as to promise to 
favour me with his company one evening at my lodg- 
ings ; and, as I took my leave, shook me cordially by 
the hand. It is almost needless to add, that 1 felt no 
little elation at having now so happily established an 
acquaintance of which 1 had been so long ambitious. 

My readers, will, I trust, excuse me for being thus 
minutely circumstantial, when it is considered that the 
acquaintance of Dr. Johnson was to me a most valuable 
acquisition, and laid the foundation of whatever in- 
struction and entertainment they may receive from my 
collections concerning the great subject of the work 
which they are now perusing. 

I did not visit him again till Monday, June 13, at 
which time [ recollect no part of his conversation, ex- 
cept that when I told him I had been to see Johnson ride 
upon three horses, he said, " Such a man, Sir, should be 
encouraged ; for his performances shew the extent of 

VOL. T. 40 

314- THE LIFE Of 

1763. the human powers in one instance, and thus tend to raise 
fe£^ our °P' inon °f trie faculties of man. He shews what 
54. may be attained by persevering; application ; so that ev- 
ery man may hope, that by giving as much application, 
although perhaps he may never ride three horses at 
a time, or dance upon a wire, yet he may be equally 
expert in whatever profession he has chosen to pursue." 

He again shook me by the hand at parting, and ask- 
ed me why I did not come oftener to him. Trusting 
that 1 was now in his good graces, 1 answered, that he had 
not given me much encouragement, and reminded him 
of the check 1 had received from him at our first inter- 
view. " Poh, poh ! (said he, with a complacent smile,) 
never mind these things. Come to me as often as 
you can. 1 shall be glad to see you." 

1 had learnt that his place of frequent resort was the 
Mitre tavern in Fleet-street, where he loved to sit up 
late, and I begged I might be allowed to pass an even- 
ing with him there soon, which he promised I should, 
A few days afterwards' I met him near Temple-bar, 
about one o'clock in the morning, and asked if he would 
then go to the Mitre. " Sir, (said he) it is too late ; 
they won't let us in. But I'll go with you another 
night with all mv heart." 

A revolution of some importance in my plan of life 
had just taken place ! for instead of procuring a com- 
mission in the foot-guards, which was my own inclina- 
tion, i had, in compliance with my father's wishes, 
agreed to study the law, and was soon to set out for 
Utrecht, to hear the lectures of an excellent Civilian in 
that university, and then to proceed on my travels. 
Though very desirous of obtaining Dr. Johnson's ad- 
vice and instructions on the mode of pursuing my 
studies, 1 was at this time so occupied, shall I call it I 
or so dissipated, by the amusements of London, that our 
next meeting was not till Saturday, June 25, when hap- 
pening to dine at Clifton's eating-house, in Butcher row, 
1. was surprised to perceive Johnson come in and take 
his seat at another table. The mode of dining, or rath- 
er being fed, at such houses in London, is well known 
to many to be particularly unsocial, as there is no ordi- 


nary, or united company, but each poison has his own 1763. 
mess, and is under no obligation to hold any inter- ^^ 
course with any one. A liberal and full-minded man, 54. 

however, who loves to talk, wiJl break through this 
churlish and unsocial restraint. Johnson and an Irish 
gentleman got into a dispute concerning the cause of 
some part of mankind being black. " Why, Sir, (said 
Johnson,) it has been accounted for in three ways : 
either by supposing that they are the posterity of Ham, 
who was cursed ; or that God at first created two kinds 
of men, one black and another white ; or that by the 
heat of the sun the skin is scorched, and so acquires a 
sooty hue. This matter has been much canvassed 
anions: naturalists, but has never been brought to any 
certain issue." What the Irishman said is totally ob- 
literated from my mind ; but 1 remember that he be- 
came very warm and intemperate in his expressions : 
upon which Johnson rose, and quietly walked away. 
"When he had retired, his antagonist took his revenge, 
as he thought, by saying, " He has a most ungainly fig- 
ure, and an affectation of pomposity, unworthy of a man 
of genius." 

Johnson had not observed that I was in the room. I 
followed him, however, and he agreed to meet me in 
the evening at the Mitre. I called on him, and we 
went thither at nine. We had a good supper, and port 
wine, of which he then sometimes drank a bottle. 
The orthodox high-church sound of the Mitre, — the 
figure and manner of the celebrated Samuel Johnson, 
— the extraordinary power and precision of his conver- 
sation, and the pride arising from finding myself admit- 
ted as his companion, produced a variety of sensations, 
and a pleasing elevation of mind beyond what I had ev- 
er before experienced. 1 find in my Journal the follow- 
ing minute of our conversation, which, though it will 
give but a very faint notion of what passed, is, in some 
degree, a valuable record ; and it will be curious in this 
view, as shewing how habitual to his mind were some 
opinions which appear in his works. 

" Colley Cibber, Sir, was by no means a blockhead ; 
but by arrogating to himself too much, he was in dan- 


1763. ger of losing that degree of estimation to which he was 
$J^ entitled. His friends gave out that he intended his 
54. birth-day Odes should be bad : but that was not the 
case, Sir ; for he kept them many months by him, and 
a few years before he died he shewed me one of them, 
with great solicitude to render it as perfect as might be, 
and 1 made some corrections, to which he was not 
very willing to submit.. I remember the following 
couplet in allusion to the King and himself: 

c PerchM on the eagle's soaring wing, 
4 The lowly linnet loves to sing/ 

Sir, he had heard something of the fabulous tale of the 
wren sitting upon the eagle's wing, and he had applied 
it to a linnet. Gibber's familiar style, however, was bet- 
ter than that which Whitehead has assumed. Grand 
nonsense is insupportable. Whitehead is but a little 
man to inscribe verses to players." 

1 did not presume to controvert this censure, which 
was tinctured with his prejudice against players, but I 
could not help thinking that a dramatick poet might 
with propriety pay a compliment to an eminent per- 
former, as Whitehead has very happily done in his 
verses to Mr. Garrick. 

" Sir, I do not think Gray a first-rate poet. He has 
not a bold imagination, nor much command of words. 
The obscurity in which he has involved himself will 
siot persuade us that he is sublime. His Elegy in a 
church-yard has a happy selection of images, but I 
don't like what are called his great things. His ode 
which begins 

' Ruin seize thee, ruthless King, 
* Confusion on thy banners wait !' 

has been celebrated for its abruptness, and plunging in- 
to the subject all at once. But such arts as these have 
no merit, unless when they are original. We admire them 
only once ; and this abruptness has nothing new in it. 
We have had it often before. Nay, we have it in the 
old song of Johnny Armstrong : 


Is there ever a man in all Scotland 1763. 

> From the highest estate to the lowest degree, &C* ^Qt 

And then, Sir, 54 ' 

' Yes, there is a man in Westmoreland 

' And Johnny Armstrong they do him call.' 

There, now, you plunge at once into the subject. You 
have no previous narration to lead you to it. — The two 
next lines in that Ode are, 1 think, very good : 

i Though fann'd by conquest's crimson wing, 
* They mock the air with idle state. 


Here let it be observed, that although his opinion of 
Gray's poetry was widely different from mine, and 1 be- 
lieve from that of most men of taste, by whom it is 
with justice highly admired, there is certainly much ab- 
surdity in the clamour which has been raised, as if he 
had been culpably injurious to the merit of that bard, 
and had been actuated by envy. Alas ! ye little short- 
sighted criticks, could Johnson be envious of the tal- 
ents of any of his contemporaries ? That his opinion on 
this subject was what in private and in publick he uni- 
formly expressed, regardless of what others might think, 
we may wonder, and perhaps regret ; but it is shallow 
and unjust to charge him with expressing what he did 
not think. 

Finding him in a placid humour, and wishing to 
avail myself of the opportunity which 1 fortunately had 
of consulting a sage, to hear whose wisdom, 1 conceiv- 
ed in the ardour of youthful imagination, that men fill- 
ed with a noble enthusiasm for intellectual improve- 
ment would gladly have resorted from distant lands ; — 
I opened my mind to him ingenuously, and gave him 
a little sketch of my life, to which he was pleased to 
listen with great attention. 

I acknowledged, that though educated very strictly 
in the principles of religion, 1 had for some time been 
misled into a certain degree of infidelity ; but that I 

7 My friend Mr. Malone, in his valuable comments on Shakspcare, has traced in 
.-bat great poet the disjecta membra of these lines. 


1763. was come now to a better way of thinking, and was 
jJgJU' fully satisfied of the truth of the Christian revelation, 
54, ' though 1 was not clear as to every point considered to 
be orthodox. Being at all times a curious examiner 
of the human mind, and pleased with an undisguised 
display of what had passed in it, he called to me with 
warmth. " Give me your hand ; I have taken a liking 
to you." He then began to descant upon the force of 
testimony, and the little we could know of final causes ; 
so that the objections of, why was it so ? or why was 
it not so ? ought not to disturb us : adding, that he 
himself had at one period been guilty of a temporary 
neglect of religion, but that it was not the result of ar- 
gument, but mere absence of thought. 

After having given credit to reports of his bigotry, I 
was agreeably surprized when he expressed the follow- 
ing very liberal sentiment, which has the additional 
value of obviating an objection to our holy religion, 
founded upon the discordant tenets of Christians them- 
selves : " For my part, Sir, I think all Christians, 
whether Papists or Protestants, agree in the essential 
articles, and that their differences are trivial, and rather 
political than religious." 

We talked of belief in ghosts. He said, " Sir, I 
make a distinction between what a man may experi- 
ence by the mere strength of his imagination, and 
what imagination cannot possibly produce. Thus, sup- 
pose 1 should think that I saw a form, and heard a 
voice cry ' Johnson, you are a very wicked fellow, and 
unless you repent you will certainly be punished ;' my 
own unworthiness is so deeply impressed upon my 
mind, that 1 might imagine I thus saw and heard, and 
therefore 1 should not believe that an external commu- 
nication had been made to me. But if a form should 
appear, and a voice should tell me that a particular 
man had died at a particular place, and a particular 
hour, a fact which I had no apprehension of, nor any 
means of knowing, and this fact, with all its circum- 
stances, should afterwards be unquestionably proved, I 
should, in that case be persuaded that I had supernat- 
ural intelligence imparted to me." 


Here it is proper, once for all, to give a true and fair *763; 
statement of Johnson's way of thinking upon theques-^^ 
tion, whether departed spirits are ever permitted to ap- 54. 
pear in this world, or in any way to operate upon human 
life, lie has been ignorantly misrepresented as weakly 
credulous upon that subject ; and, therefore, though I 
it el an inclination to disdain and treat with silent con- 
tempt so foolish a notion concerning my illustrious 
friend, yet as 1 rind it has gained ground, it is necessa- 
ry to refute it. The real fact then is, that Johnson had 
a very philosophical mind, and such a rational respect 
for testimony, as to make him submit his understand- 
ing to what was authentically proved, though he could 
not comprehend why it was so. Being thus disposed, 
he was willing to enquire into the truth of any relation 
of supernatural agency, a general belief of which has 
prevailed in all nations and ages. But so far was he 
from being the dupe of implicit faith, that he examined 
the matter with a jealous attention, and no man was 
more ready to refute its falshood when he had discov- 
ered it. Churchill, in his poem entitled " The Ghost," 
availed himself of the absurd credulity imputed to John- 
son, and drew a caricature of him under the name of 
" Pomposo," representing him as one of the believers 
of the story of a Ghost in Cock-lane, which, in the 
year 1762, had gained very general credit in London. 
Many of my readers, I am convinced, are to this hour 
under an impression that Johnson was thus foolishly 
deceived. It will therefore surprize them a good deal 
when they are informed upon undoubted authority, 
that Johnson was one of those by whom the imposture 
was detected. The story had become so popular, that 
he thought it should be investigated ; and in this re- 
search he was assisted by the Reverend Dr. Douglas, 
now Bishop of Salisbury, the great detector of impos- 
tures ; who informs me, that after the uentlemen who 
went and examined into the evidence were satisfied of 
its falsity, Johnson wrote in their presence an account 
of it, which was published in the news-papers and 
Gentleman's Magazine, and undeceived the world. 3 

8 The account was as follows : " On the night of the 1st of February, many gen- 
tlemen eminent for their rank and character, were, b- the invitation of the Rev- 


1763. Our conversation proceeded. " Sir, (said he,) I am 
^fy a friend to subordination, as most conducive to the hap- 
54, piness oi society. 1 here is a reciprocal pleasure in 
governing and being governed." 

" Dr. Goldsmith is one of the first men we now 
have as an authour, and he is a very worthy man too, 
He has been loose in his principles, but he is coming 

I mentioned Mallet's tragedy of " Elvira," which 
had been acted the preceding winter at Drury-lane, 
and that the Honourable Andrew Erskine, Mr. Demp- 
ster, and myself, had joined in writing a pamphlet, en- 
titled " Critical Strictures" against it. 9 That the mild- 
ness of Dempster's disposition, had, however, relented , 
and he had candidly said, " We have hardly a right to 

erend Mr. Aldrich, of Clerkenwell, assembled at his house, for the examination of 
the noises supposed to be made by a departed spirit, for the detection of some 
enormous crime. 

" About ten at night the gentlemen met in the chamber in which the girl, sup- 
posed to be disturbed by a spirit, had, with proper caution, been put to bed by 
several ladies. Thev sat rather more than an hour, and hearing nothing, went 
down stairs, when they interrogated the father of the girl, who denied, in the 
strongest terms, any knowledge or belief of fraud. 

" The supposed spirit had before publickly promised, by an affirmative knock, 
that it would attend one of the gentlemen into the vault under the church of St. 
John, Clerkenwell, where the body is deposited, and give a token of her presence 
there, by a knock upon her coffin ; it was therefore determined to make this trial 
of the existence or veracity of the supposed spirit. 

" While they were enquiring and deliberating, they were summoned into th* 
girl's chamber by some ladies who were near her bed, and who had heard knocks 
and scratches. When the gentlemen entered, the girl declared that she felt the 
spirit like a mouse upon her back, and was required to hold her hands out of bed. 
From that time, though the spirit was very solemnly required to manifest its exist- 
ence by appearance, by impression on the hand or body of any present, by scratch- 
es, knocks, or any other agency, no evidence of any preternatural power was ex- 

" The spirit was then very seriously advertised that the person to whom the 
promise was made of striking the coffin, was then about to visit the vault, and that 
the performance of the promise was then claimed. The company at one o'clock 
went into the church, and the gentleman to whom the promise was made, went 
with another into the vault. The spirit was solemnly required to perform its prom- 
ise, but nothing more than silence ensued : the person supposed to be accused by 
the spirit, then went down with several others, but no effect was perceived. Up- 
on their return they examined the girl, but could draw no confession from her. 
Between two and three she desired and was permitted to go home with her father. 

" It is, therefore, the opinion of the whole assembly, that the child has some art 
of making or counterfeiting a particular noise, and that there is no agency of any 
higher cause." 

' The Critical Review, in which Mallet himself sometimes wrote, characterised 
this pamphlet as " the crude efforts of envy, petulance, and self-conceit." There 
being thus three epithets, we the three authours had a humourous contention how 
each should be appropriated. 


abuse this tragedy ; for bad as it is, how vain should '763. 
either of us be to write one not near so good." John- ^ tat# 
son. " Why no, Sir ; this is not just reasoning. You 54. 
maif abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. 
You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad 
table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your 
trade to make tables." 

When 1 talked to him of the paternal estate to which 
I was heir, he said, " Sir, let me tell you, that to be a 
Scotch landlord, where you have a number of families 
dependent upon you, and attached to you, is, perhaps, 
as hig;h a situation as humanity can arrive at. A mer- 
chant upon the 'Change of London, with a hundred 
thousand pounds, is nothing ; an English Duke, with an 
immense fortune, is nothing : he has no tenants who 
consider themselves as under his patriarchal care, and 
who will follow him to the field upon an emergency." 

His notion of the dignity of a Scotch landlord had 
been formed upon what he had heard of the Highland 
Chiefs ; for it is long since a lowland landlord has been 
so curtailed in his feudal authority, that he has little 
more influence over his tenants than an English land- 
lord ; and of late years most of the Highland Chiefs 
have destroyed, by means too well known, the princely 
power which they once enjoyed. 

He proceeded : " Your going abroad, Sir, and break- 
ing off idle habits, may be of great importance to you. 
I would 2:0 where there are courts and learned men. 
There is a good deal of Spain that has not been peram- 
bulated. 1 would have you go thither. A man of in- 
feriour talents to yours may furnish us with useful 
observations upon that country." His supposing me, 
at that period of life, capable of writing an account of 
my travels that would deserve to be read, elated me 
not a little. 

I appeal to every impartial reader whether this faith- 
ful detail of his frankness, complacency, and kindness 
to a young man, a stranger and a Scotchman, does not 
refute the unjust opinion of the harshness of his gener- 
al demeanour. His occasional reproofs of folly, impu- 
dence, or impiety, and even the sudden sallies of his 

VOL. I. 41 

322 1HE LIFE OF 

?7G3. constitutional irritability of temper, which have been 
iEt-T P reservTe d for tne poignancy of their wit, have produced 
5 4, " that opinion among those who have not considered that 
such instances, though collected by Mrs. Piozzi into a 
small volume, and read over in a few hours, were, in 
fact, scattered through a long series of years : years, in 
which his time was chiefly spent in instructing and de- 
lighting mankind by his writings and conversation, in 
acts of piety to God, and good-will to men. 

I complained to him that I had not yet acquired 
much knowledge, and asked his advice as to my stud- 
ies. He said, " Don't talk of study now. I will give 
you a plan ; but it will require some time to consider 
of it." " It is very good in you (I replied,) to allow 
me to be with you thus. Had it been foretold to me 
some years ago that I should pass an evening with the 
authour of the Rambler, how should I have exulted !" 
What I then expressed, was sincerely from the heart. 
He was satisfied that it was, and cordially answered, 
'* Sir, I am glad we have met. I hope we shall pass 
many evenings and mornings too, together." We fin- 
ished a couple of bottles of port, and sat till between 
one and two in the morning. 

He wrote this year in the Critical Review the ac- 
count of " Telemachus, a Mask," by the Reverend 
George Graham, of Eton College. The subject of this 
beautiful poem was particularly interesting to Johnson, 
who had much experience of " the conflict of opposite 
principles," which he describes as " The contention 
between pleasure and virtue, a struggle which will al- 
ways be continued while the present system of nature 
shall subsist ; nor can history or poetry exhibit more 
than pleasure triumphing over virtue, and virtue subju- 
gating pleasure." 

As Dr. Oliver Goldsmith will frequently appear in 
this narrative, I shall endeavour to make my readers in 
some degree acquainted with his singular character. 
He was a native of Ireland, and a contemporary with 
Mr. Burke, at Trinity College, Dublin, but did not then 
give much promise of future celebrity. 1 He, however, 

1 [Goldsmith got a premium at a Christmas examination in Trinity College, 
Dublin, which I have seen. K] 


observed to Mr. Malone, that " though he made do i?^- 
great figure in mathematicks, which was a study in ^ tat> 
much repute there, lie could turn an Ode of Horace 54, 
into English better than any of them." He afterwards 
studied physick at Edinburgh, and upon the Continent ; 
and I have been informed, was enabled to pursue his 
travels on foot, partly by demanding at Universities to 
enter the lists as a disputant, by which, according to the 
custom of many of them, he was entitled to the premi- 
um of a crown, when luckily for him his challenge was 
not accepted ; so that, as I once observed to Dr. John- 
son, he disputed his passage through Europe. He then 
came to England, and was employed successively in the 
capacities of an usher to an academy, a corrector of the 
jnvss, a reviewer, and a writer for a news-paper. He 
had sagacity enough to cultivate assiduously the ac- 
quaintance of Johnson, and his faculties were gradually 
enlarged by the contemplation of such a model. To 
me and many others it appeared that he studiously 
copied the manner of Johnson, though, indeed, upon a 
smaller scale. 

At this time I think he had published nothing with 
his name, though it was pretty generally known that 
one Dr. Goldsmith was the authour of " An Enquiry 
into the present state of polite Learning in Europe," 
and of " The Citizen of the World," a series of letters 
supposed to be written from London by a Chinese. z 
No man had the art of displaying with more advantage 
as a writer, whatever literary acquisitions he made. " Ni- 
hil quod tetigit non ornavit." 3 His mind resembled a 
fertile, but thin soil. There was a quick, but not a 
strong vegetation, of whatever chanced to be thrown 
upon it. No deep root could be struck. The oak of 

[A premium obtained at the Christmas examination, is generally more honoura- 
ble than any other, because it ascertains the person who receives it to be the first 
in literary merit. At the other examinations, the person thus distinguished may 
be only the second in merit ; he who has previously obtained the same honorary 
reward, sometimes receiving a written certificate that he was the best answerer, it 
being a rule that not more than one premium should be adjudged to the same pcr- 
on in one year. See p. 249. M.] 

2 [He had also published in 1759, " The Bee, being Essays on the most inter- 
esting subjects." M.] 

e his Epitaph in Westminster Abbey, written by Dr. Johnson. 


1/63. the forest did not grow there ; but the elegant shrub- 
Mvt k ei T anc * the fragrant parterre appeared in gay succes- 
54. ' sion. It has been generally circulated and believed 
that he was a mere fool in conversation ;* but, in truth, 
this has been greatly exaggerated. He had, no doubt, 
a more than common share of that hurry of ideas which 
we often find in his countrymen, and which sometimes 
produces a laughable confusion in expressing them. 
He was very much what the French call un etourdi, 
and from vanity and an eager desire of being conspicu- 
ous wherever he was, he frequently talked carelessly 
-without knowledge of the subject, or even without 
thought. His person was short, his countenance coarse 
and vulgar, his deportment that of a scholar awkwardly 
affecting the easy gentleman. Those who were in any 
way distinguished, excited envy in him to so ridiculous 
an excess, that the instances of it are hardlv credible. 
When accompanying two beautiful young ladies 5 with 
their mother on a tour in France, he was seriously- 
angry that more attention was paid to them than to 
him ; and once at the exhibition of the Fantoccini in 
London, when those who sat next him observed with 
what dexterity a puppet was made to toss a pike, he- 
could not bear that it should have such praise, and ex- 
claimed with some warmth, " Pshaw ! 1 can do it bet- 
ter myself." 6 

He, 1 am afraid, had no settled system of any sort, 

4 In allusion to this, Mr. Horace Walpole, who admired his writings, said he was 
" an inspired ideot ;" and Garrick described him as one 

" for shortness call'd Noll, 

" Who wrote like an angel, and talk'd like poor Poll." 
Sir Joshua Reynolds mentioned to me that he frequently heard Goldsmith talk 
warmly of the pleasure of being liked, and observe how hard it would be if lite- 
rary excellence should preclude a man from that satisfaction, which he perceived 
it often did, from the envy which attended it ; and therefore Sir Joshua was con- 
vinced that he was intentionally more absurd, in order to lessen himself in social 
intercourse, trusting that his character would be sufficiently supported by his work. 
If it indeed was his intention to appear absurd in company, he was often very suc- 
cessful. But with due deference to Sir Joshua's ingenuity, I think the conjecture 
too refined. 

' Miss Hornecks, one of whom is now married to Henry Bunbury, Esq. and 
the other to Colonel Gwyn. 

6 He went home with Mr. Burke to supper ; and broke his shin by attempting 
to exhibit to the company how much better he could jump over a stick than the 


so that his conduct must not be strictly scrutinized ; 1763. 
but his affections were social and generous, and when ^ tat> 
he had money he gave it away very liberally. His de- 54. 
sire of imaginary consequence predominated over his 
attention to truth. When he began to rise into notice, 
he said he had a brother who was Dean of Durham,' 
a fiction so easily detected, that it is wonderful how he 
should have been so inconsiderate as to hazard it. He 
boasted to me at this time of the power of his pen in 
commanding money, which I believe was true in a cer- 
tain degree, though in the instance he gave he was by 
no means correct. He told me that he had sold a 
novel for four hundred pounds. This was his " Vicar 
of Wakefield." But Johnson informed me, that he had 
made the bargain for Goldsmith, and the price was 
sixty pounds. " And, Sir, (said he,) a sufficient price 
too, when it was sold ; for then the fame of Goldsmith 
had not been elevated, as it afterwards was, by his 
1 Traveller ;' and the bookseller had such faint hopes of 
profit by his bargain, that he kept the manuscript by 
him a long time, and did not publish it till after the 
' Traveller' had appeared. Then, to be sure, it was ac- 
cidentally worth more money." 

Mrs. Piozzi 8 and Sir John Hawkins 9 have strange- 
ly mis-stated the history of Goldsmith's situation and 
Johnson's friendly interference, when this novel was 
sold. 1 shall give it authentically from Johnson's own 
exact narration : 

" 1 received one morning a message from poor Gold- 
smith that he was in great distress, and as it was not in 
his power to come to me, begging that I would come 
to him as soon as possible. 1 sent him a guinea, and 
promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went 
as soon as I was drest, and found that his landlady had 
arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent 
passion. I perceived that he had already changed my 

7 I am willing to hope that there may have been some mistake as to this anec- 
dote, though I had it from a Dignitary of the church. Dr. Isaac Goldsmith, his 
near relation, was Dean of Cloyne, in 1747, 

8 Anecdotes of Johnson, p. 119, 
5 Life of Johnson, 420. 



1763. guinea, and had got a bottle of Madeira and a glass be- 
fore him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he 
would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means 
by which he might be extricated. He then told me 
that he had a novel ready for the press, which he pro- 
duced to me. I looked into it, and saw its merit ; told 
the landlady I should soon return, and having gone to 
a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Gold- 
smith the money, and he discharged his rent, not with- 
out rating his landlady in a high tone for having used 
him so ill." 1 

My next meeting with Johnson was on Friday the 1st 
of July, when he and I and Dr. Goldsmith supped at 
the Mitre. I was before this time pretty well acquaint- 
ed with Goldsmith, who was one of the brightest orna- 
ments of the Johnsonian school. Goldsmith's respect- 
ful attachment to Johnson was then at its height ; for 
his own literary reputation had not yet distinguished 
him so much as to excite a vain desire of competition 
with his great Master. He had increased my admira- 
tion of the goodness of Johnson's heart, by incidental 
remarks in the course of conversation, such as, when I 
mentioned Mr. Levet, whom he entertained under his 
roof, " He is poor and honest, which is recommendation 
enough to Johnson ;" and when I wondered that he 
was very kind to a man of whom I had heard a very bad 
character, " He is now become miserable, and that in- 
sures the protection of Johnson." 

Goldsmith attempting this evening to maintain, I 
suppose from an affectation of paradox, " that knowl- 

1 It may not be improper to annex here Mrs. Piozzi's account of this trans- 
action, in her own words, as a specimen of the extreme inaccuracy with which all 
her anecdotes of Dr. Johnson are related, or rather discoloured and distorted. " I 
have forgotten the year, but it could scarcely, I think, be later than 1765 or 1766, 
that he was called abruptly from our bouse after dinner, and returning in about three 
tours, said he had been with an enraged authour, whose landlady pressed him for 
payment within doors, while the bailiffs beset him without ; that he was drinking 
himself drunk with Madeira, to drown care, and fretting over a novel, which when 
finished, was to be his -whole fortune, but he could not get it done for distraction, nor could 
he step out of doors to offer it for sale. Mr. Johnson, therefore, sent away the 
bottle, and went to the bookseller, recommending the performance, and desiring 
some immediate relief ; which when he brought back to the writer, he called the ivo- 
• of the house directly to partake of punch, and pass their time in merriment" Anec~ 
d es of Dr. Johnson, p. IIP. 


edge was not desirable on its own account, tor it often 1763. 
was a source of unhappiness." Johnson. " Why, Sir, J£u^ 
that knowledge may in some cases produce unhappi- 54 . 
ness, 1 allow. But, upon the whole, knowledge, per se, 
is certainly an object which every man would wish to 
attain, although, perhaps, he may not take the trouble 
necessary for attaining it." 

Dr. John Campbell, the celebrated political and 
biographical writer, being mentioned, Johnson said, 
" Campbell is a man of much knowledge, and has a 
good share of imagination. His' Hermippus Redivi- 
vus' is very entertaining, as an account of the Hermet- 
ick philosophy, and as furnishing a curious history of 
the extravagancies of the human mind. If it were 
merely imaginary, it would be nothing at all. Camp- 
bell is not always rigidly careful of truth in his conver- 
sation ; but I do not believe there is any thing of this 
carelessness in his books. Campbell is a good man, a 
pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the inside 
of a church for many years ;- but he never passes a 
church without pulling off nis hat. This shews that he 
has good principles. 1 used to go pretty often to 
Campbell's on a Sunday evening till I began to consid- 
er that the shoals of Scotchmen who flocked about him 
might probably say, when any thing of mine was well 
done, c Ay, ay, he has learnt this of Cawmell \" 

He talked very contemptuously of Churchill's poe- 
try, observing, that " it had a temporary currency, only 
from its audacity of abuse, and being filled with living 
names, and that it would sink into oblivion." i ven- 
tured to hint that he wasnotquite a fair judge, as Church- 

2 I am inclined to think that he was misinformed as to this circumstance. I own 
I am jealous for my worthy friend Dr. John Campbell. For though Milton could 
without remorse absent himself from publick worship, I cannot. On the contrary, 
I have the same habitual impressions upon my mind, with those of a truly venera- 
ble Judge, who said to Mr. Langton, " Friend Langton, if I have not bean at church 
on Sunday, I do not feel myself easy." Dr. Campbell was a sincerely religious 
man. Lord Macartney, who is eminent for his variety of knowledge, and atten- 
tion to men of talents, and knew him well, toid me, that when he called on him in 
a morning, he found him reading a chapter in the Greek New Testament, which 
he informed his Lordship was his constant practice. The quantity of Dr. Camp- 
bell's composition is almost incredible, and his labours brought liini large profits. 
Dr. Joseph Warton told me that Johnson said of him. "Fie is the richest aiuhoir 
that ever grazed the common of literature." 



1763. ill had attacked him violently. Johnson. "Nay, Sir, I 
jg^ am a very fair judge. He did not attack me violently 
54. ' till lie found I did not like his poetry ; and his attack 
on me shall not prevent me from continuing to say what 
I think of him, from an apprehension that it may be as- 
cribed to resentment. No, Sir, I called the fellow a 
blockhead at first, and I will call him a blockhead still. 
However, 1 will acknowledge that I have a better opin- 
ion of him now, than 1 once had ; for he has shewn 
more fertility than I expected. To be sure, he is a tree 
that cannot produce good fruit : he only bears crabs. 
But, Sir, a tree that produces a great many crabs is bet- 
ter than a tree which produces only a few." 

In this depreciation of Churchill's poetry I could not 
agree with him. It is very true that the greatest part 
of it is upon the topicks of the day, on which account, 
as it brought him great fame and profit at the time, it 
must proportionably slide out of the publick attention 
as other occasional objects succeed. But Churchill 
had extraordinary vigour both of thought and expres- 
sion. His portraits of the players will ever be valua- 
ble to the true lovers of the drama ; and his strong ca- 
ricatures of several eminent men of his age, will not be 
forgotten by the curious. Let me add, that there is in 
his works many passages which are of a general nature ; 
and his " Prophecy of Famine" is a poem of no ordina- 
ry merit. It is, indeed, falsely injurious to Scotland ; 
but therefore maybe allowed a greater share of invention. 
Bonnell Thornton had just published a burlesque 
" Ode on St. Cecilia's day," adapted to the ancient 
British musick, viz. the salt-box, the jews-harp, the mar- 
row-bones and cleaver, the hum-strum or hurdy-gurdy, 
&c. Johnson praised its humour, and seemed much 
diverted with it. He repeated the following passage ; 

" In strains more exalted the salt-box shall join, 
"And clattering and battering and clapping combine ; 
" With a rap and a tap while the hollow side sounds, 
" Up and down leaps the flap, and with rattling re- 
bounds. J 

1 [In 1769 I set for Smart and Newbery, Thornton's burlesque Ode, on St. Ce- 
riiia's day. It was performed at Ranelagh in masks, to a very crowded audience, 


I mentioned the periodical paper called "The Con- 1763. 
noisseur." He said it wanted matter. — No doubt it *j£^ 
had not the deep thinking- of Johnson's writings. But 54. 
surely it has just views of the surface of life, and a very 
sprightly manner. His opinion of The World was 
not much higher than of the Connoisseur. 

Let me here apologize for the imperfect manner in 
which I am obliged to exhibit Johnson's conversation 
at this period. In the early part of my acquaintance 
with him, L was so wrapt in admiration of his extraor- 
dinary colloquial talents, and so little accustomed to his 
peculiar mode of expression, that I found it extremely 
difficult to recollect and record his conversation with its 
genuine vigour and vivacity. In progress of time, 
when my mind was, as it were, strongly impregnated 
with the Johnsonian cether, I could with much more fa- 
cility and exactness, carry in my memory and commit 
to paper the exuberant variety of his wisdom and wit. 

At this time Miss Williams,* as she was then call- 
ed, though she did not reside with him in the Temple 
under his roof, but had lodgings in Bolt-court, Fleet- 
street, had so much of his attention, that he every night 
drank tea with her before he went home, however late 
it might be, and she always sat up for him. This, it 
maybe fairly conjectured, was not alone a proof of his 
regard for her, but of his own unwillingness to go into 
solitude, before that unseasonable hour at which he 
had habituated himself to expect the oblivion of repose. 
Dr. Goldsmith, being a privileged man, went with him 
this night, strutting away, and calling to me with an air 
of superiority, like that of an esoterick over an exoter- 
ick disciple of a sage of antiquity, " i go to Miss Wil- 

as I was told ; for I then resided in Norfolk. Beard sung the salt-box song, which 
was admirably accompanied on that instrument by Brent, the Fencing master, and 
father of Miss Brent, the celebrated singer ; Skeggs on the broomstick, as bassoon ; 
and a remarkable performer on the Jews-harp. — " Buzzing twangs the iron lyre." 
Cleavers were cast in bell-metal for this entertainment. All the performers of the 
old woman's Oratory, employed by Foote, were, I believe, employed at Raneiagh, 
on this occasion. B.] 

' [See p. 185. This lady resided in Dr. Johnson's house in Gough-square ant " 
about 175:> to 1758 ; and in that year, on his removing: to Grav's Inn, ' dI1 ar, d 
into lodgings. At a subsequent period, she again became an inmate w : J J ect - ■ :,ee 
in Johnson's-court. M.] observe, that 

AOL. I. 


'763. Hams." I confess, I then envied him this mighty priv- 
Mtzt. 'l e g e > °* which he seemed so proud ; but it was not 
54. long before 1 obtained the same mark of distinction. 

On Tuesday the 5th of July, I again visited Johnson. 
He told me he had looked into the poems of a pretty 
voluminous writer, Mr. (now Dr.) John Ogilvie, one 
of the Presbyterian ministers of Scotland, which had 
lately come out, but could find no thinking in them. 
Boswell. " Is there not imagination in them, Sir ?" 
Johnson. " Why, Sir, there is in them what zws im- 
agination, but it is no more imagination in him, than 
sound is sound in the echo. And his diction too is 
not his own. We have long ago seen white-robed in- 
nocence, and flower-bespangled meads." 

Talking of London, he observed, " Sir, if you wish 
to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you 
must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and 
squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes 
and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of build- 
ings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations 
which are crowded together, that the wonderful immen- 
sity of London consists." — I have often amused my- 
self with thinking how different a place London is to 
different people. They, whose narrow minds are con- 
tracted to the consideration of some one particular pur- 
suit, view it only through that medium. A politician 
thinks of it merely as the seat of government in its dif- 
ferent departments ; a grazier, as a vast market for cat- 
tle ; a mercantile man, as a place where a prodigious 
deal of business is done upon 'Change ; a dramatick 
enthusiast, as the grand scene of theatrical entertain- 
ments ; a man of pleasure, as an assemblage of tav- 
erns, and the great emporium for ladies of easy virtue. 
But the intellectual man is struck with it, as compre- 
hending the whole of human life in all its variety, the 
contemplation of which is inexhaustible. 

On Wednesday, July 6, he was engaged to sup with 

-^ at my lodgings in Downing-street, Westminster. 

m the preceding night my landlord having behav- 

rudely to me and some company who were 

3 [in 1769 1^ resolved not to remain another night in 

cilia's day. It was h 


his house. 1 was exceedingly uneasy at the awkward i/fr*. 
appearance 1 supposed I should make to Johnson and jjT t ^ 
the other gentlemen whom 1 had invited, not being 54, 
able to receive them at home, and being obliged to or- 
der supper at the Mitre. 1 went to Johnson in the 
morning, and talked of it as of a serious distress. He 
laughed, and said, " Consider, Sir, how insignificant 
this will appear a twelvemonth hence." — Were this 
consideration to be applied to most of the little vexa- 
tious incidents of life, by which our quiet is too often 
disturbed, it would prevent many painful sensations. 
1 have tried it frequently with good effect. " There is 
nothing (continued he) in this mighty misfortune ; 
nay, we shall be better at the. Mitre." 1 told him that 
1 had been at Sir John Fielding's office, complaining of 
my landlord, and had been informed, that though 1 had 
taken my lodgings for a year, I might, upon proof of 
his bad behaviour, quit them when 1 pleased, without 
being under an obligation to pay rent for any longer 
time than while 1 possessed them. The fertility of 
Johnson's mind could shew itself even upon so small a 
matter as this. " Why, Sir, (said he,) I suppose this 
must be the law, since vou have been told so in Bow- 
street. But, if your landlord could hold you to your 
bargain, and the lodgings should be yours for a year, 
you may certainly use them as you think fit. So, Sir, 
you may quarter two life-guard men upon him ; or you 
may send the greatest scoundrel you can find into your 
apartments ; or you may say that you want to make 
some experiments in natural philosophy, and may burn 
a large quantity of assafeetida in his house." 

1 had as mv quests this evening at the Mitre tavern, 
Dr. Johnson, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Thomas Davies, Mr. 
Eccles, an Irish gentleman, for whose agreeable com- 
pany 1 was obliged to Mr. Davies, and the Reverend 
Mr. John Ogilvie, 5 who was desirous of being in com- 

* The Northern bard mentioned page 330. When I asked Dr. Johnson's permis- 
sion to introduce him, he obligingly agreed ; adding, however, with a sly pleasant- 
ry, " but be must give us none of his poetry." It is remarkable that Johnson and 
Churchill, however much they differed in other points, agreed on this subject. See 
Churchill's " Journey." It is, however, but justice to Dr. Ogilvie to observe, that 
his " Dav of Judgment," has no inconsiderable share of merit. 


1763. pany with my illustrious friend, while I, in my turn, 
jE^ was proud to have the honour of shewing one of my 
54.* countrymen upon what easy terms Johnson permitted 
me to live with him. 

Goldsmith, as usual, endeavoured, with too much 
eagerness, to shine, and disputed very warmly with 
Johnson against the well known maxim of the British 
constitution, " the King can do no wrong ;" affirming, 
that " what was morally false could not be politically 
true ; and as the King might, in the exercise of his regal 
power, command and cause the doing of what was 
wrong, it certainly might be said, in sense and in rea- 
son, that he could do wrong." Johnson. " Sir, you 
are to consider, that in our constitution, according to 
its true principles, the King is the head, he is supreme ; 
he is above every thing, and there is no power by which 
he can be tried. Therefore, it is, Sir, that we hold the 
King can do no wrong ; that whatever may happen to 
be wrong in government may not be above our reach, 
by being ascribed to Majesty. Redress is always to be 
had against oppression, by punishing the immediate 
agents. The King, though he should command, can- 
not force a Judge to condemn a man unjustly ; there- 
fore it is the Judge whom we prosecute and punish. 
Political institutions are formed upon the consideration 
of what will most frequently tend to the good of the 
whole, although now and then exceptions may occur. 
Thus it is better in general that a nation should have a 
supreme legislative power, although it may at times be 
abused. And then, Sir, there is this consideration, 
that if the abuse be enormous, Nature will rise up, and 
claiming her original rights, overturn a corrupt political 
system " I mark this animated sentence with peculiar 
pleasure, as a noble instance of that truly dignified spirit 
of freedom which ever glowed in his heart, though he 
was charged with slavish tenets by superficial observ- 
ers ; because he was at all times indignant against that 
false patriotism, that pretended love of freedom, that 
unrulv restlessness which is inconsistent with the sta* 
ble authority of any good government. 


This generous sentiment, which he uttered with J 763. 
;at fervour, struck me exceedingly, and stirred my i E tat> 


blood to that pitch of fancied resistance, the possibility 54. 
of which I am glad to keep in mind, but to which I 
trust 1 never shall be forced. 

" Great abilities (said he) are not requisite for an 
Historian ; for in historical composition, all the greatest 
powers < >f the human mind are quiescent. He has facts 
ready to his hand ; so there is no exercise of invention. 
Imagination is not required in any high degree ; only 
about as much as is used in the lower kinds of poetry. 
Some penetration, accuracy, and colouring, will fit a man 
for the task, if he can give the application which is 

" Bayle's Dictionary is a very useful work for those 
to consult who love the biographical part of literature, 
which is what I love most." 

Talking of the eminent writers in Queen Anne's 
reign, he observed, " 1 think Dr. Arbuthnot the first 
man among them. He was the most universal genius, 
being an excellent physician, a man of deep learning, 
and a man of much humour. Mr. Addison was, to be 
sure, a great man ; his learning was not profound ; but 
his morality, his humour, and his elegance of writing, 
set him very high." 

Air. Ogilvie was unlucky enough to choose for the 
topick of his conversation the praises of his native 
country. He began with saying, that there was very 
rich land around Edinburgh. Goldsmith, who had 
studied physick there, contradicted this, very untruly, 
with a sneering laugh. Disconcerted a little by this, 
Mr. Ogilvie then took new ground, where, 1 suppose, 
he thought himself perfectly safe ; for he observed, that 
Scotland had a great many noble wild prospects. John- 
son. " 1 believe, Sir, you have a great many. Nor- 
way, too, has noble wild prospects ; and Lapland is re- 
markable for prodigious noble wild prospects. But, 
Sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a 
Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to 
England !" This unexpected and pointed sally pro- 
duced a roar of applause. After all, however, those 


1763. who admire the rude grandeur of Nature, cannot deny 
it to Caledonia. 

On Saturday, July 9, I found Johnson surrounded 
with a numerous levee, but have not preserved any 
part of his conversation. On the 14th we had another 
evening by ourselves at the Mitre. It happening to be 
a very rainy night, I made some common place obser- 
vations on the relaxation of nerves and depression of 
spirits which such weather occasioned ; 6 adding, how- 
ever, that it was good for the vegetable creation. John- 
son, who, as we have already seen, denied that the 
temperature of the air had any influence on the human 
frame, answered, with a smile of ridicule, " Why, yes, 
Sir, it is good for vegetables, and for the animals who 
eat those vegetables, and for the animals who eat those 
animals." This observation of his aptly enough intro- 
duced a good supper ; and I soon forgot, in Johnson's 
company, the influence of a moist atmosphere. 

Feeling myself now quite at ease as his companion, 
though I had all possible reverence for him, 1 expressed 
a regret that I could not be so easy with my Hither, 
though he was not much older than Johnson, and cer- 
tainly however respectable had not more learning and 
greater abilities to depress me. I asked him the reason 
of this. Johnson. "Why, Sir, I am a man of the 
world. I live in the world, and 1 take, in some degree, 
the colour of the world as it moves along. Your father 
is a Judge in a remote part of the island, and all his 
notions are taken from the old world. Besides, Sir, 
there must always be a struggle between a father and 
son, while one aims at power and the other at inde- 
pendence." I said, I was afraid my father would force 
me to be a lawyer. Johnson. " Sir, you need not be 
afraid of his forcing you to be a laborious practising 
lawyer ; that is not in his power. For as the proverb 
says, ' One man may lead a horse to the water, but 
twenty cannot make him drink/ He may be displeased 
that you are not what he wishes you to be; but that 
displeasure will not go far. If he insists only on your 

« [Johnson would suffer none of his friends to fill Tip chasms in conversation 
with remarks on the weather ; " Let us not talk of the weather." B/j 

DR. JOHNSON. 33>j 

having as much law as is necessary for a man of prop- 1763. 
erty, and then endeavours to get you into Parliament, JJ^T' 
he is quite in the right." 54. 

I [e enlarged very convincingly upon the excellence of 
rhyme over blank verse in English poetry. 1 mention- 
ed to him that Dr. Adam Smith, in his lectures upon 
composition, when 1 studied under him in the College 
of Glasgow, had maintained the same opinion strenu- 
ously, and 1 repeated some of his arguments. Johnson. 
" Sir, 1 was once in company with Smith, and we did not 
take to each other ; but had I known that he loved 
rhyme as much as you tell me he does, I should have 
hugged him." 

Talking of those who denied the truth of Christian- 
itv, he said, " It is always easy to be on the negative 
side. If a man were now to deny that there is salt up- 
on the table, you could not reduce him to an absurdity. 
Come, let us try this a little further. 1 deny that Can- 
ada is taken, and 1 can support my denial by pretty- 
good arguments. The French are a much more nu- 
merous people than we ; and it is not likely that they 
would allow us to take it. ' But the ministry have as- 
sured us, in all the formality of the Gazette, that it is 
taken.' — Very true. But the ministry have put us to 
an enormous expence by the war in America, and it 
is their interest to persuade us that we have got some- 
thing for our money. — ' But the fact is confirmed by 
thousands of men who were at the taking of it/ — Ay, 
but these men have still more interest in deceiving us. 
They don't want that you should think the French have 
beat them, but that they have beat the French. Now 
suppose you should go over and find that it really is ta- 
ken, that would only satisfy yourself ; for when you 
come home we will not believe you. We will say, you 
have been bribed. — Vet, Sir, notwithstanding all these 
plausible objections, we have no doubt that Canada is 
really ours. Such is the weight of common testimony. 
How much stronger are the evidences of the Christian 
religion V* 

" Idleness is a disease which must be combated ; but 
I would not advise a rigid adherence to a particular plan 


1763. of study. I myself have never persisted in any plan 

fcl^ 1 for two days together. A man ought to read just as in- 

54, ' clination leads him ; fof what he reads as a task will do 

him little good. A young man should read five hours 

in a day, and so may acquire a great deal of knowledge." 

To a man of vigorous intellect and ardent curiosity 
like his own, reading without a regular plan may be 
beneficial ; though even such a man must submit to 
it, if he would attain a full understanding of anv of the 

To such a degree of unrestrained frankness had he 
now accustomed me, that in the course of this evening 
1 talked of the numerous reflections which had been 
thrown out against him on account of his havinsr ac- 
cepted a pension from his present Majesty. " Why, 
Sir, (said he, with a hearty laugh,) it is a mighty fool- 
ish noise that they make. 7 I have accepted of a pen- 
sion as a reward which has been thought due to mv lit- 
erary merit ; and now that I have this pension, I am the 
same man in every respect that I have ever been ; I re- 
tain the same principles. It is true, that I cannot now 
curse (smiling) the House of Hanover ; nor would it be 
decent for me to drink King James's health in the wine 
that King George gives me money to pay for. But, 
Sir, I think that the pleasure of cursing the House of 
Hanover, and drinking King James's health, are amply 
overbalanced by three hundred pounds a year." 

There was here, most certainly, an affectation of 
more Jacobitism than he really had ; and indeed an 
intention of admitting, for the moment, in a much 
greater extent than it really existed, the charge of dis- 
affection imputed to him by the world, merely for the 
purpose of shewing how dexterously he could repel an 
attack, even though he were placed in the most disad- 
vantageous position ; for I have heard him declare, 
that if holding up his right hand would have secured 
victory at Culloden to Prince Charles's army, he was 
not sure he would have held it up ; so little confidence 

' When I mentioned the same idle clamour to him several years afterwards, he 
said, with a smile, " I wish my pension were twice as large, that they might make 
twice as much noise." 


had he in the right claimed by the house of Stuart, and '763. 
so fearful was he of the consequences of another re vo- ^T^ 
lution on the throne of Great-Britain ; and Mr. Top- 54. 
ham Beauclerk assured me, he had heard him say this 
before he had his pension. At another time he said 
to Mr. Langton, " Nothing has ever offered, that has 
made it worth my while to consider the question fully." 
He, however, also said to the same gentleman, talking 
of King James the Second, " It was become impossible 
for him to reign any longer in this country." He no 
doubt had an early attachment to the House of Stuart ; 
but his zeal had cooled as his reason strengthened. In- 
deed I heard him once say, " that after the death of a 
violent Whig, with whom he used to contend with 
great eagerness, he felt his Toryism much abated." 8 I 
suppose he meant Mr. VV almsley. 

Yet there is no doubt that at earlier periods he was 
wont often to exercise both his pleasantly and ingenu- 
ity in talking Jacobitism. My much respected friend, 
Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, has favoured me 
with the following admirable instance from his Lord- 
ship's own recollection. One day when dining at old 
Mr. Langton's, where Miss Roberts, his niece, was one 
of the company, Johnson, with his usual complacent 
attention to the fair sex, took her by the hand and said, 
" My dear, I hope you are a Jacobite." Old Mr. 
Langton, who, though a high and steady Tory, was at- 
tached to the present Royal Family, seemed offended, 
and asked Johnson, with great warmth, what he could 
mean by putting such a question to his niece ? " Why, 
Sir, (said Johnson) I meant no offence to your niece, 1 
meant her a great compliment. A Jacobite, Sir, be- 
lieves in the divine right of Kings. He that believes in 
the divine right of Kings believes in a Divinity. A 
Jacobite believes in the divine right of Bishops. He 
that believes in the divine right of Bishops believes in 
the divine authority of the Christian religion. There- 
fore, Sir, a Jacobite is neither an Atheist nor a Deist. 

3 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d. edit. p. 420. 

vol. i. 43 


1763. That cannot be said of a Whig ; for Whiggism is a ut~ 

JEtaT g a ti° n of ali principle." 9 

,54. ' He advised me, when abroad, to be as much as I 
could with the Professors in the Universities, and with 
the Clergy ; for from their conversation I might expect 
the best accounts of every thing in whatever country I 
should be, with the additional advantage of keeping 
my learning alive. 

It will be observed, that when giving me advice as to 
my travels, Dr. Johnson did not dwell upon cities, and 
palaces, and pictures, and shows, and Arcadian scenes. 
He was of Lord Essex's opinion, who advises his kins- 
man Roger Earl of Rutland, "rather to go an hundred 
miles to speak with one wise man, than five miles to 
see a fair town." 1 

I described to him an impudent fellow from Scot- 
land, who affected to be a savage, and railed at all es- 
tablished systems. Johnson. "There is nothing sur- 
prizing in this, Sir. He wants to make himself con- 
spicuous. He would tumble in a hogstye, as long as 
you looked at him, and called to him to come out. 
But let him alone, never mind him, and he'll soon give 
it over." 

I added that the same person maintained that there 
was no distinction between virtue and vice. Johnson. 
" Why, Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, 
he is lying ; and I see not what honour he can propose 
to himself from having the character of a lvar. But if 

. ... 

he does really think that there is no distinction between 
virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses 
let us count our spoons." 

Sir David Dalrymple, now one of the Judges of Scot- 
land by the title of Lord Hailes, had contributed much 
to increase my high opinion of Johnson, on account of 
his writings, long before I attained to a personal ac- 

9 He used to tell, with great humour, from my relation to him, the following 
little story of my early years, which was literally true : " Boswell, in the year 1 745, 
was a fine boy, wore a white cockade, and prayed for King James, till one of his 
uncles (General Cochran) gave him a shilling on condition that he would pray for 
King George, which he accordingly did. So you see (says Boswell) that Whigs if 
all ages are made the same ■way." 

1 Letter to Rutland on Travel, 16mo. 1596. 


quaintance with him ; I, in return, had informed .John- 1763. 
son of Sir David's eminent character for learning and ^ut! 
religion ; and Johnson was so much pleased, that at 54. 
one of our evening meetings, he gave him for his toast. 
I at this time kept up a very frequent correspondence 
with Sir David ; and I read to Dr. Johnson to-night 
the following passage from the letter which I had last 
received from him : 

" It gives me pleasure to think that t you have obtain- 
ed the friendship of Mr. Samuel Johnson. He is one. 
of the best moral writers which England has produced. 
At the same time, 1 envy you the free and undisguised 
converse with such a man. May I beg you to present 
my best respects to him, and to assure him of the ven- 
eration which I entertain for the authour of the Ram- 
bler and of Rasselas ! Let me recommend this last work 
to you ; with the Rambler you certainly are acquainted. 
In Rasselas you will see a tender-hearted operator, who 
probes the wound only to heal it. Swift, on the con- 
trary, mangles human nature. He cuts and slashes, as 
if he took pleasure in the operation, like the tyrant who 
said, Ita fieri ut se sentiat emori" Johnson seemed to 
be much gratified by this just and well-turned compli- 

He recommended to me to keep a journal of my 
life, full and unreserved. He said it would be a very 
good exercise, and would yield me great satisfaction 
when the particulars were faded from my remembrance. 
1 was uncommonly fortunate in having had a previous 
coincidence of opinion with him upon this subject, for 
1 had kept such a journal for some time ; and it was 
no small pleasure to me to have this to tell him, and to 
receive his approbation. He counselled me to keep it 
private, and said I might surely have a friend who 
would burn it in case of my death. From this habit I 
have been enabled to give the world so many anec- 
dotes, which would otherwise have been lost to pos- 
terity. I mentioned that 1 was afraid I put into my 
journal too many little incidents. Johnson. " There 
is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. 
It is by studying little things that we attain the great 


*763. art of having as little misery and as much happiness as 

&ut. possible." 

54. Next morning Mr. Dempster happened to call on 
me, and was so much struck even with the imperfect 
account which I gave him of Dr. Johnson's conversa- 
tion, that to his honour be it recorded, when I com- 
plained that drinking port and sitting up late with him, 
affected my nerves for some time after, he said, " One 
had better be palsied at eighteen than not keep compa- 
ny with such a man." 

. On Tuesday July 18, I found tall Sir Thomas Rob- 
inson sitting with Johnson. Sir Thomas said, that the 
King of Prussia valued himself upon three things ; — > 
upon being a hero, a musician, and an authour. John- 
son. " Pretty well, Sir, for one man. As to his being 
an authour, I have not looked at his poetry ; but his 
prose is poor stuff He writes just as you may suppose 
Voltaire's footboy to do, who has been his amanuensis. 
He has such parts as the valet might have, and about 
as much of the colouring of the style as might be got 
by transcribing his works." When I was at Ferney, I 
repeated this to Voltaire, in order to reconcile him 
somewhat to Johnson, whom he, in affecting the En- 
glish mode of expression, had previously characterised 
as " a superstitious dog ;" but after hearing such a crit- 
icism on Frederick the Great, with whom he was then 
on bad terms, he exclaimed, " An honest fellow !" 

But I think the criticism much too severe ; for the 
cl Memoirs of the House of Brandenburgh" are written 
as well as many works of that kind. His poetry, for 
the style of which he himself makes a frank apology, 
" Jargonnant un Frangois barbare" though fraught 
with pernicious ravings of infidelity, has, in many 
places, great animation, and in some a pathetick ten- 

Upon this contemptuous animadversion on the King 
of Prussia, I observed to Johnson, " It would seem 
then, Sir, that much less parts are necessary to make a 
King, than to make an Authour : for the King of 
Prussia is confessedly the greatest King now in Europe, 
yet you think he makes a very poor figure as an Au- 


Air. Levet this day shewed me Dr. Johnson's library, 1763. 
which was contained in two garrets over his Chambers, ^at. 
where Lintot, son of the celebrated bookseller of that 54. 
name, had formerly his warehouse. J found a number 
of good books, but very dusty and in great confusion. 
The floor was strewed with manuscript leaves, in John- 
son's own hand-writing, which 1 beheld with a degree 
of veneration, supposing they perhaps might contain 
portions of the Rambler, or of Rasselas. 1 observed an 
apparatus for chymical experiments, of which Johnson 
was all his life very fond. The place seemed to be 
very favourable for retirement and meditation. John- 
son told me, that he went up thither without men- 
tioning it to his servant when he wanted to study, se- 
cure from interruption ; for he would not allow his ser- 
vant to say he was not at home when he really was. 
: ' A servant's strict regard for truth, (said he) must be 
weakened by such a practice. A philosopher may 
know that it is merely a form of denial ; but few ser- 
vants are such nice distinguishes. If 1 accustom a 
servant to tell a lie for me, have I not reason to appre- 
hend that he will tell many lies for himself?'' 1 am 
however, satisfied that every servant, of any degree of 
intelligence, understands saying his master is not at 
home, not at all as the affirmation of a fact, but as cus- 
tomarv words, intimating' that his master wishes not to 
be seen ; so that there can be no bad effect from it. 

Mr. Temple, now vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall, who 
had been my intimate friend for many years, had at this 
time chambers in Farrar's buildings, at the bottom of 
Inner Temple-lane, which he kindly lent me upon my 
quitting my lodgings, he being to return to Trinity 
Hall, Cambridge. I found them particularly conven- 
ient for me, as they were so near Dr. Johnson's. 

On Wednesday, July 20, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Demp- 
ster, and my uncle Dr. Boswell, who happened to be 
now in London, supped with me at these Chambers. 
Johnson. " Pitv is not natural to man. Children are 
always cruel. Savages are always cruel. Pity is ac- 
quired and improved by the cultivation of reason. We 
may have uneasy sensations from seeing a creature in 


1763. distress, without pity ; for we have not pity unless we 
SaT w * sn t0 reneve them. When I am on my way to dine 
54. with a friend, and finding it late, have bid the coach- 
man make haste, if I happen to attend when he whips 
his horses, I may feel unpleasantly that the animals are 
put to pain, but I do not wish him to desist. No, Sir, I 
wish him to drive on." 

Mr. Alexander Donaldson, bookseller of Edinburgh, 
had for some time opened a shop in London, and sold 
his cheap editions of the most popular English books, 
in defiance of the supposed common-law right of Lit- 
erary Property. Johnson, though he concurred in the 
opinion which was afterwards sanctioned by a judge- 
ment of the House of Lords, that there was no such 
right, was at this time very angry that the Booksellers 
of London, for whom he uniformly professed much re- 
gard, should suffer from an invasion of what they had 
ever considered to be secure ; and he was loud and vi- 
olent against Mr. Donaldson. " He is a fellow who 
takes advantage of the law to injure his brethren ; for 
notwithstanding that the statute secures only fourteen 
years of exclusive right, it has always been understood 
by the trade, that he, who buys the copy-right of a book 
from the authour, obtains a perpetual property ; and 
upon that belief, numberless bargains are made to 
transfer that property after the expiration of the statu- 
tory term. Now Donaldson, I say, takes advantage 
here, of people who have really an equitable title from 
usage ; and if we consider how few of the books, of 
which they buy the property, succeed so well as to 
bring profit, we should be of opinion that the term of 
fourteen years is too short ; it should be sixty years." 
Dempster. " Donaldson, Sir, is anxious for the en- 
couragement of literature. He reduces the price of 
books, so that poor students may buy them." John- 
son, (laughing) " Well, Sir, allowing that to be his mo- 
tive, he is no better than Robin Hood, who robbed the 
rich in order to give to the poor." 

It is remarkable, that when the great question con- 
cerning Literary Property came to be ultimately tried 
before the supreme tribunal of this country, in conse- 


quence of the very spirited exertions of Mr. Donaldson, i?G3. 
Dr. Johnson was zealous against a perpetuity ; but ^T^ 
he thought that the term of the exclusive right of au- 54. 
thours should be considerably enlarged. He was then 
for granting a hundred vears. 


The conversation now turned upon Mr. David 
Hume's style. Johnson. " Why, Sir, his style is not 
English ; the structure of his sentences is French. 
Now the French structure and the English structure 
may, in the nature of things, be equally good. But if 
you allow that the English language is established, he 
is wrong. My name might originally have been Nich- 
olson, as well as Johnson ; but were you to call me 
Nicholson now, you would call me very absurdly." 

Rousseau's treatise on the inequality of mankind was 
at this time a fashionable topick. It gave rise to an 
observation by Mr. Dempster, that the advantages of 
fortune and rank were nothing to a wise man, who 
ought to value only merit. Johnson. " If man were 
a savage, living in the woods by himself, this might be 
true ; but in civilized society we all depend upon each 
other, and our happiness is very much owing to the 
good opinion of mankind. Now, Sir, in civilized so- 
ciety, external advantages make us more respected. A 
man with a good coat upon his back meets with a bet- 
ter reception than he who has a bad one. Sir, you 
may analyse this, and say what is there in it 1 But that 
will avail you nothing, for it is a part of a general sys- 
tem. Pound St. Paul's church into atoms, and consider 
any single atom ; it is, to be sure, good for nothing : 
but, put all these atoms together, and you have St. 
Paul's church. So it is with human felicity, which is 
made up of many ingredients, each of which may be 
shewn to be very insignificant. In civilized society, 
personal merit will not serve you so much as money 
will. Sir, you may make the experiment. Go into 
the street, and give one man a lecture on morality, and 
another a shilling, and see which will respect you most. 
If you wish only to support nature, Sir William Petty 
fixes your allowance at three pounds a year ; but as 
times are much altered, let us call it six pounds. This 


1763. sum will fill your belly, shelter you from the weather, 
JjJJ^and even get you a strong lasting coat, supposing it to 
54. ' be made of good bull's hide. Now, Sir, all beyond 
this is artificial, and is desired in order to obtain a great- 
er degree of respect from our fellow-creatures. And, 
Sir, if six hundred pounds a year procure a man more 
consequence, and, of course, more happiness than six 
pounds a year, the same proportion will hold as to six 
thousand, and so on, as far as opulence can be carried. 
Perhaps he who has a large fortune may not be so happy 
as he who has a small one : but that must proceed from 
other causes than from his having the large fortune : 
for, cceteris paribus, he who is rich in a civilized so- 
ciety, must be happier than he who is poor ; as riches, 
if properly used, (and it is a man's own fault if they are 
not,) must be productive of the highest advantages. 
Money, to be sure, of itself is of no use ; for its only 
use is to part with it. Rousseau, and all those who 
deal in paradoxes, are led away by a childish desire ot 
novelty. 1 When I was a boy, I used always to choose 
the wrong side of a debate, because most ingenious 
things, that is to say, most new things, could be said 
upon it. Sir, there is nothing for which you may not 
muster up more plausible arguments, than those which 
are urged against wealth and other external advanta- 
ges. Why, now, there is stealing; why should it be 
thought a crime \ When we consider by what unjust 
methods property has been often acquired, and that 
what was unjustly got it must be unjust to keep, where 
is the harm in one man's taking the property of another 
from him I Besides, Sir, when we consider the bad use 
that many people make of their property, and how 
much better use the thief may make of it, it may be 
defended as a very allowable practice. Yet, Sir, the 
experience of mankind has discovered stealing to be so 
very bad a thing, that they make no scruple to hang a 
man for it. When I was running about this town a 

1 [Johnson told Dr. Burney that Goldsmith said, when he first began to write, he 
determined to commit to paper nothing but what was new ; but he afterwards 
found that what was new was generally false, and from that time was no longer so- 
licitous about novelty. B.] 

DR. JOHNSON. 34,5 

very poor fellow, I was a great arguer for the advanta- 1763. 
ges of poverty ; but I was, at the same time, very sorry jT^ 
to be poor. Sir, all the arguments which are brought 54. 
to represent poverty as no evil, shew it to be evidently 
a great evil. You never find people labouring to con- 
vince you that you may live very happily upon a plen- 
tiful fortune. — So you hear people talking how misera- 
ble a King must be ; and yet they all wish to be in his 

It was suggested that Kings must be unhappy, be- 
cause they are deprived of the greatest of all satisfac- 
tions, easy and unreserved society. Johnson. "That 
is an ill-founded notion. Being a King does not ex- 
clude a man from such society. Great Kings have al- 
ways been social. The King of Prussia, the only great 
King at present, is very social. Charles the Second, 
the last King of England who was a man of parts, was 
social ; and our Henrys and Edwards were all social." 

Mr. Dempster having endeavoured to maintain that 
intrinsick merit ought to make the only distinction 
amongst mankind. Johnson. " Why, Sir, mankind 
have found that this cannot be. How shall we deter- 
mine the proportion of intrinsick merit I Were that to 
be the onlv distinction amonsrst mankind, we should 
soon quarrel about the degrees of it. Were all distinc- 
tions abolished, the strongest would not long acquiesce, 
but would endeavour to obtain a superiority by their 
bodily strength. But, Sir, as subordination is very ne- 
cessary for society, and contentions for superiority very 
dangerous, mankind, that is to say, all civilized nations, 
have settled it upon a plain invariable principle. A 
man is born to hereditary rank ; or his being appointed 
to certain offices, gives him a certain rank. Subordina- 
tion tends greatly to human happiness. Were we all 
upon an equality, we should have no other enjoyment 
than mere animal pleasure." 

I said, I considered distinction or rank to be of so 
much importance in civilized society, that if I were 
asked on the same day to dine with the first Duke in 
England, and with the first man in Britain for genius, 
I should hesitate which to prefer. Johnson. " To be 

vol. t = 1 | 


1763. sure, Sir, if you were to dine only once, and it were 
iEtaT never to De known where you dined, you would choose 
54. rather to dine with the first man for genius ; but to 
gain most respect, you should dine with the first Duke 
in England. For nine people in ten that you meet 
with, would have a higher opinion of you for having 
dined with a Duke ; and the great genius himself 
would receive you better, because you had been with 
the great Duke." 

He took care to guard himself against any possible 
suspicion that his settled principles of reverence for 
rank and respect for wealth were at all owing to mean 
or interested motives; for he asserted his own inde- 
pendence as a literary man. " No man (said he) who 
ever lived by literature, has lived more independently 
than 1 have done." He said he had taken longer time 
than he needed to have done in composing his Diction- 
ary. He received our compliments upon that great 
work with complacency, and told us that the Academy 
della Crusca could scarcely believe that it was done by 
one man. 

Next morning T found him alone, and have preserved 
the following fragments of his conversation. Of a gen- 
tleman who was mentioned, he said, " 1 have not met 
with any man for a long time who has given me such 
general displeasure. He is totally unfixed in his prin- 
ciples, and wants to puzzle other people." I said his 
principles had been poisoned by a noted infidel writer, 
but that he was, nevertheless, a benevolent good man. 
Johnson. " We can have no dependance upon that 
instinctive, that constitutional goodness which is not 
founded upon principle. I grant you that such a man 
may be a very amiable member of society. 1 can con- 
ceive him placed in such a situation that he is not much 
tempted to deviate from what is right ; and as every 
man prefers virtue, when there is not some strong in- 
citement to transgress its precepts, 1 can conceive him 
doing nothing wrong. Hut if such a man stood in 
need of money, I should not like to trust him ; and I 
should certainly not trust him with young ladies, for 
there there is always temptation. Hume, and other 


sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify 1 7 <J;3 - 
themselves at any expence. Truth will not afford suf- J,.^ 
fieient food to their vanity ; so they have betaken 54. 
themselves to errour. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will 
yield such people no more milk, and so they arc gone 
to milk the hull. If 1 could have allowed myself to 
gratify my vanity at the expence of truth, what fame 
might 1 have acquired. Every thing which Hume has 
advanced against Christianity had passed through my 
mind long before he wrote. Always remember this, 
that after a system is well settled upon positive evi- 
dence, a few partial objections ought not to shake it. 
The human mind is so limited, that it cannot take in 
all the parts of a subject, so that there may be objec- 
tions raised against any thing. There are objections 
against a plenum, and objections against a vacuum ; 
yet one of them must certainly be true." 

1 mentioned Hume's argument against the belief of 
miracles, that it is more probable that the witnesses to 
the truth of them are mistaken, or speak falsely, than 
that the miracles should be true. Johnson. " Why, 
Sir, the great difficulty of proving miracles should make 
us verv cautious in believing them. But let us con- 
sider ; although God has made Nature to operate by 
certain fixed laws, yet it is not unreasonable to think 
that he may suspend those laws, in order to establish a 
system highly advantageous to mankind. Now the 
Christian Religion is a most beneficial system, as it 
gives us light and certainty where we were before in 
darkness and doubt. The miracles which prove it are 
attested by men who had no interest in deceiving us ; 
but who, on the contrary, were told that they should 
suffer persecution, and did actually lay down their 
lives in confirmation of the truth of the facts which 
they asserted. Indeed, for some centuries the heathens 
did not pretend to deny the miracles ; but said they 
were performed by the aid of evil spirits. This is a 
circumstance of great weight. Then, Sir, when we 
take the proofs derived from prophecies which have 
been so exactly fulfilled, we have most satisfactory ev- 
idence. Supposing a miracle possible, as to which, in 


1763. my opinion, there can be no doubt, we have a strong 
JEtaT ev id ence f° r tne miracles in support of Christianity, as 
54. ' the nature of the thing admits." 

At night, Mr. Johnson and I supped in a private 
room at the Turk's Head coffee-house, in the Strand. 
" I encourage this house (said he ;) for the mistress of it 
is a good civil woman, and has not much business." 

" Sir, I love the acquaintance of young people ; be- 
cause, in the first place, I don't like to think myself 
growing old. In the next place, young acquaintances 
must last longest, if they do last ; and then, Sir, young 
men have more virtue than old men ; they have more 
generous sentiments in every respect. I love the 
young dogs of this age, they have more wit and humour 
and knowledge of life than we had ; but then the dogs 
are not so good scholars. Sir, in my early years I read 
very hard. It is a sad reflection, but a true one, that I 
knew almost as much at eighteen as 1 do now. My 
judgement, to be sure, was not so good ; but, I had all 
the facts. I remember very well, when 1 was at Ox- 
ford, an old gentleman said to me, ' Young man, ply 
your book diligently now, and acquire a stock of knowl- 
edge ; for when years come unto you, you will find that 
poring upon books will be but an irksome task." 

This account of his reading, given by himself in plain 
words, sufficiently confirms what I have already advanc- 
ed upon the disputed question as to his application. It 
reconciles any seeming inconsistency in his way of talk- 
ing upon it at different times ; and shews that idleness 
and reading hard were with him relative terms, the im- 
port of which, as used by him, must be gathered from a 
comparison with what scholars of different degrees of 
ardour and assiduity have been known to do. And let 
it be remembered, that he was now talking spontane- 
ously, and expressing his genuine sentiments ; whereas 
at other times he might be induced from his spirit of 
contradiction, or more properly from his love of argils 
mentative contest, to speak lightly of his own applica- 
tion to study. It is pleasing to consider that the old 
gentleman's gloomy prophecy as to the irksomeness of 
books to men of an advanced age, which is too often 



fulfilled, was so far from being verified in Johnson, that *763 
his ardour for literature never failed, and his last vvri- ^fait 
tings had more ease and vivacity than any of his earlier 54 

He mentioned to me now, for the first time, that he 
had been distrest by melancholy, and for that reason 
had been obliged to fly from study and meditation, to 
the dissipating variety of life. Against melancholy he 
recommended constant occupation of mind, a great deal 
of exercise, moderation in eating and drinking, and espe- 
cially to shun drinking at night. He said melancholy 
people were apt to fly to intemperance for relief, but 
that it sunk them much deeper in misery. He observ- 
ed, that labouring men who work hard, and live spar- 
ingly, are seldom or never troubled with low spirits. 

He again insisted on the duty of maintaining subor- 
dination of rank. " Sir, 1 would no more deprive a no- 
bleman of his respect, than of his money. I consider 
myself as acting a part in the great system of society, 
and I do to others as I would have them to do to me. 
I would behave to a nobleman as I should expect he 
would behave to me, were I a nobleman and he Sam. 
Johnson. Sir, there is one Mrs. Macau lay 2 in this 
town, a great republican. One day when I was at her 
house, I put on a very grave countenance, and said to 
her, ' Madam, I am now become a convert to your way 
of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are up- 
on an equal footing ; and to give you an unquestiona- 
ble proof, Madam, that I am in earnest, here is a very 
sensible, civil, well-behaved fellow citizen, your foot- 
man ; I desire that he may be allowed to sit down and 
dine with us/ I thus, Sir, shewed her the absurdity of 
the levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. 
Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as them- 
selves ; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves. 
They would ail have some people under them : why 
not then have some people above them \" I mentioned 
a certain authour who disgusted me by his forwardness, 
and by shewing no deference to noblemen into whose 

2 This one Mrs. Macaulay was the same personage who afterwards made herself 
50 much known as " the celebrated female historian." 


1763. company he was admitted. Johnson. " Suppose a 
Sat snoema ker should claim an equality with him, as he 
54. does with a Lord : how he would stare. * Why, Sir, 
do you stare I (says the shoemaker,) I do great service 
to society. Tis true, I am paid for doing it ; but so are 
you Sir : and I am sorry to say it, better paid than I 
am, for doing something not so necessary. For man- 
kind could do better without your books, than without 
my shoes.' Thus, Sir, there would be a perpetual 
struggle for precedence, were there no fixed invariable 
rules for the distinction of rank, which creates no jeal- 
ousy, as it is allowed to be accidental." 

He said, Dr. Joseph Warton was a very agreeable 
man, and his " Essay on the Genius and Writings of 
Pope/' a very pleasing book. 1 wondered that he de- 
layed so long to give us the continuation of it. John- 
son. " Why, Sir, I suppose he finds himself a little dis- 
appointed, in not having been able to persuade the 
world to be of his opinion as to Pope." 

We have now been favoured with the concluding 
volume, in which, to use a parliamentary expression, he 
has explained, so as not to appear quite so adverse to 
the opinion of the world, concerning Pope, as was at 
first thought ; and we must all agree, that his work is a 
most valuable accession to English literature. 

A writer of deserved eminence being mentioned, 
Johnson said, " Why, Sir, he is a man of good parts, 
but being originally poor, he has got a love of mean 
company and low jocularity ; a very bad thing, Sir. To 
laugh is good, as to talk is good. But you ought no 
more to think it enough if you laugh, than you are to 
think it enough if you talk. You may laugh in as ma- 
ny ways as you talk ; and surely every way of talking 
that is practised cannot be esteemed." 

i spoke of a Sir James Macdonald as a young man of 
most distinguished merit, who united the highest rep- 
utation at Eton and Oxford, with the patriarchal spirit 
of a great Highland Chieftain. 1 mentioned that Sir 
James had said to me, that he had never seen Mr. John- 
son, but he had a great respect for him, though at the 
same time it was mixed with some degree of terrour. 


Johnson. "Sir, if he were to be acquainted with me, 1763. 
it might lessen both." /Etat. 

The mention of this gentleman led us to talk of the 54. 
Western islands of Scotland, to visit which he express- 
ed a wish that then appeared to mi* a very romantick 
fancy, which 1 little thought would be afterwards real- 
ised. He told me, that his father had put Martin's ac- 
count of those islands into his hands when he was very 
young, and that he was highly pleased with it ; that he 
was particularly struck with the St. Kilda man's notion 
that the high church of Glasgow had been hollowed 
out of a rock ; a circumstance to which old Air. John- 
son had directed his attention, fie said, he would go 
to the Hebrides with me, when 1 returned from my 
travels, unless some very good companion should offer 
when I was absent, which he did not think probable ; 
adding, " There are few people to whom i take so much 
to as to you." And when 1 talked of my leaving Eng- 
land, he said with a very affectionate air, " My dear 
Boswell, 1 should be very unhappy at parting, did J. 
think, we were not to meet again." — i cannot too often 
remind my readers, that although such instances of his 
kindness are doubtless very flattering to me, yet 1 hope 
my recording them will be ascribed to a better motive 
than to vanity ; for they afford unquestionable evidence 
of his tenderness and complacency, which some, while 
they were forced to acknowledge his great powers, have 
been so strenuous to deny. 

He maintained that a boy at school was the happiest 
©f human beings. 1 supported a different opinion, from 
which l have never yet varied, that a man is happier : 
and I enlarged upon the anxiety and sufferings which 
are endured at school. Johnson.- "Ah ! Sir, a boy's 
being flogged is not so severe as a man's having the 
hiss of the world against him. Men have a solicitude 
about fame ; and the greater share they have of it, the 
more afraid they are of losing it." 1 silently asked my- 
self, " is it possible that the great Samuel Johnson 
really entertains any such apprehension, and is not con- 
fident that his exalted fame is established upon a foun- 
dation never to be shaken f" 


1763. He this evening drank a bumper to Sir David Dal- 

^^ rymple, " as a man of worth, a scholar, and a wit." " J 

54, have (said he) never heard of him : except from you ; 

but let him know my opinion of him : for as he does 

not shew himself much in the world, he should have 

the praise of the few who hear of him." 

On Tuesday, July 26", I found Mr. Johnson alone. 
It was a very wet day, and I again complained of the 
disagreeable effects of such weather. Johnson. "Sir, 
this is all imagination, which physicians encourage ; 
for man lives in air, as a fish lives in water ; so that if 
the atmosphere press heavy from above, there is an 
equal resistance from below. To be sure, bad weather 
is hard upon people who are obliged to be abroad ; and 
men cannot labour so well in the open air in bad 
weather, as in good : but, Sir, a smith or a taylor, whose 
work is within doors, will surely do as much in 
rainy weather, as in fair. Some very delicate frames, 
indeed, may be affected by wet weather ; but not com- 
mon constitutions." 

We talked of the education of children ; and I asked 
him what he thought was best to teach them first. 
Johnson. " Sir, it is no matter what you teach them 
first, any more than what leg you shall put into your 
breeches first. Sir, you may stand disputing which is 
best to put in first, but in the mean time your breech 
is bare. Sir, while you are considering which of two 
things you should teach your child first, another boy 
has learnt them both." 

On Thursday, July 28, we again supped in private at 
the Turk's Head coffee-house. Johnson. " Swift has 
a higher reputation than he deserves. His excellence 
is strong sense; for, his humour, though very well, is 
not remarkably good. I doubt whether the ' Tale of a 
Tub' be his ; for he never owned it, and it is much above 
his usual manner." 3 

" Thomson, 1 think, had as much of the poet about 
him as most writers. Every thing appeared to him 
through the medium of his favourite pursuit. He could 

1 This opinion was given by him more at large at a subsequent period. Sec 
" Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," 3d edit. p. 32. 


not have viewed those two candles burning but with a 1763 


poetical eye/ jE tat 

" Has not a great deal of wit, Sir i John- 54 

son. " i do not think so, Sir. He is, indeed, continu- 
ally attempting wit, but he fails. And I have no more 
pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, 
than in seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and 
tumbling into it." 

He laughed heartily when I mentioned to him a say- 
ing of his concerning Mr. Thomas Sheridan, which 
Foote took a wicked pleasure to circulate. " Why, Sir, 
Sherry is dull, naturally dull ; but it must have taken 
him a great deal of pains to become what we now see 
him. Such an excess of stupidity, Sir, is not in Na- 
ture." — " So (said he,) I allowed him all his own merit." 

He now added, " Sheridan cannot bear me. 1 bring 
his declamation to a point. I ask him a plain question, 
' What do you mean to teach V Besides, Sir, what in- 
fluence can Mr. Sheridan have upon the language of 
this great country, by his narrow exertions ? Sir, it is 
burning a farthing candle at Dover, to shew light at 

Talking of a young man who was uneasy from think- 
ing that he was very deficient in learning and knowl- 
edge, he said, " A man has no reason to complain who 
holds a middle place, and has many below him ; and 
perhaps he has not six of his years above him ; — per- 
haps not one. Though he may not know any thing per- 
fectly, the general mass of knowledge that he has ac- 
quired is considerable. Time will do for him all that is 


The conversation then took a philosophical turn. 
Johnson. " Human experience, which is constantly 
contradicting theory, is the great test of truth. A sys- 
tem, built upon the discoveries of a great many minds, 
is always of more strength, than what is produced by 
the mere workings of any one mind, which, of itself, can 
do little. There is not so poor a book in the world that 
would not be a prodigious effort were it wrought out 
entirely by a single mind, without the aid of prior in- 
vestigators. The French writers are superficial, because 

vol. 1. 45 


1763. they are not scholars, and so proceed upon the mere 

Sat" P ovver °f tne ' r own minds ; an d we see how very little 
54. ' power they have." 

" As to the Christian religion, Sir, besides the strong- 
evidence which we have for it, there is a balance in its 
favour from the number of great men who have been 
convinced of its truth, after a serious consideration of 
the question. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a 
man accustomed to examine evidence, and he was con- 
vinced. Grotius was not a recluse, but a man of the 
world, who certainly had no bias to the side of religion. 
Sir Isaac Newton set out an infidel, and came to be a 
very firm believer." 

He this evening again recommended to me to peram- 
bulate Spain.* 1 said it would amuse him to get a let- 
ter from me dated at Salamancha. Johnson. " I love 
the University of Salamancha ; for when the Spaniards 
were in doubt as to the lawfulness of their conquering 
America, the University of Salamancha gave it as their 
opinion that it was not lawful." He spoke this with 
great emotion, and with that generous warmth which 
dictated the lines in his " London" against Spanish en- 

1 expressed my opinion of my friend Derrick as but a 
poor writer. Johnson. "To be sure, Sir, he is : but 
you are to consider that his being a literary man has 
got for him all that he has. It has made him King of 
Bath. Sir, he has nothing to sav for himself but that 
he is a writer. Had he not been a writer, he must 
have been sweeping the crossings in the streets, and 
asking halfpence from every body that past." 

In justice, however, to the memory of Mr. Derrick, 
who was my first tutor in the ways of London, and 
shewed me the town in all its variety of departments, 
both literary and sportive, the particulars of which Dr. 
Johnson advised me to put in writing, it is proper to 
mention what Johnson, at a subsequent period, said of 

•> I fuily intended to have followed advice of such weight ; but having staid 
much longer both in Germany and Italy than I proposed to do, and having also 
visited Corsica, I found that I had exceeded the time allowed me by my father, and 
hastened to France in my way homewards. 


him both as a writer and an editor : " Sir, I have often 1763. 
said, that if Derrick's letters had been written by one jjrj^ 
of a more established name, they would have been 54. 
thought very pretty letters." s And, " 1 sent Derrick 
to Dryden's relations to gather materials for his life ; 
and 1 believe he got all that J myself should have got." 6 
Poor Derrick ! I remember him with kindness. Yet 
I cannot withhold from my readers a pleasant humour- 
ous sally which could not have hurt him had he been 
alive, and now is perfectly harmless. In his collection 
of poems, there is one upon entering the harbour of 
Dublin, his native city, after a long absence. It begins 
thus : 

" Eblana ! much lov'd city hail ! 

" Where first I saw the light of day." 

And after a solemn reflection on his being " num- 
bered with forgotten dead," there is the following stanza : 

" Unless my lines protract my fame, 

" And those, who chance to read them, cry, 

" I knew him ! Derrick was his name, 
" In yonder tomb his ashes lie." 

which was thus happily parodied by Mr. John Home, 
to whom we owe the beautiful and pathetick tragedy of 
" Douglas :" 

" Unless my deeds protract my fame, 

" And he xvho passes sad/// sings, 
" I knew him ! Derrick was his name, 

" On yonder tree his carcase swings /" 

I doubt much whether the amiable and ingenious au- 
thour of these burlesque lines will recollect them ; for 
they were produced extempore one evening while he 
and I were walking together in the dining room at Eg- 
lingtoune Castle, in 1760, and I have never mentioned 
them to him since. 

Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 2d edit. p. 104. 
' Ibid. p. 142. 


1763. Johnson said once to me, " Sir, I honour Derrick for 
JJ^his presence of mind. One night, when Floyd, 7 an- 
54. other poor authour, was wandering about the streets in 
the night, he found Derrick fast asleep upon a bulk ; 
upon being suddenly waked, Derrick started up, ' My 
dear Floyd, L am sorry to see you in this destitute state : 
will you go home with me to my lodgings /" 

I again begged his advice as to my method of study 
at Utrecht. " Come, (said he) let us make a day of it. 
Let us go down to Greenwich and dine, and talk of it 
there." The following Saturday was fixed for this ex- 

As we walked along the Strand to-night, arm in arm, 
a woman of the town accosted us, in the usual enticing 
manner. " No, no, my girl, (said Johnson) it won't 
do." He, however, did not treat her with harshness ; 
and we talked of the wretched life of such women, and 
agreed, that much more misery than happiness, upon 
the whole, is produced by illicit commerce between the 

On Saturday, July 30, Dr. Johnson and I took a 
sculler at the Temple-stairs, and set out for Greenwich. 
I asked him if he really thought a knowledge of the 
Greek and Latin languages an essential requisite to a 
good education. Johnson. " Most certainly, Sir ; for 
those who know them have a very great advantage over 
those who do not. Nay, Sir, it is wonderful what a 
difference learning makes upon people even in the com- 
mon intercourse of life, which does not appear to be 
much connected with it." " And yet, (said 1) people 
go through the world very well, and carry on the busi- 
ness of life to good advantage without learning." 
Johnson. " Why, Sir, that may be true in cases where 
learning cannot possibly be of any use ; for instance, 
this boy rows us as well without learning, as if he could 
sing the song of Orpheus to the Argonauts, who were 
the first sailors." He then called to the boy, " What 
would you give, my lad, to know about the Argo- 
nauts?" "Sir (said the boy), 1 would give what I 

■ 7 He published a biographical work, containing an account of eminent writer*; 
in 3 vols, 8vo, 


have." Johnson was much pleased with his answer, 1763. 
and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then jjjj^ 
turning to me, " Sir, (said he) a desire of knowledge is 54. 
the natural feeling of mankind ; and every human be- 
ing, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to 
give all that he has, to get knowledge." 

We landed at the Old Swan, and walked to Billings- 
gate, where we took oars and moved smoothly along 
the silver Thames. It was a very fine day. We were 
entertained with the immense number and variety of 
ships that were lying at anchor, and with the beautiful 
country on each side of the river. 

I talked of preaching, and of the great success which 
those called methodists 8 have. Johnson. "Sir, it is 
owing to their expressing themselves in a plain and fa- 
miliar manner, which is the only way to do good to 
the common people, and which clergymen of genius 
and learning ought to do from a principle of duty, when 
it is suited to their congregations ; a practice, for which 
they will be praised by men of sense. To insist against 
drunkenness as a crime, because it debases reason, the 

d All who are acquainted with the history of religion, (the most important, surely, 
that concerns the human mind,) know that the appellation of Methodists was first 
given to a society of students in the University of Oxford, who about the year 1730, 
were distinguished by an earnest and methodical attention to devout exercises. This 
disposition of mind is not a novelty, or peculiar to any sect, but has been, and still may 
be found, in many Christians of every denomination. Johnson himself was in a 
dignified manner, a Methodist. In his Rambler, No. 1 id, he mentions with respect 
" the whole discipline of regulated piety ;" and in his " Prayers and Meditations," 
many instances occur of his anxious examination into his spiritual state. That this 
religious earnestness, and in particular an observation of the influence of the Holy 
Spirit, has sometimes degenerated into folly, and sometimes been counterfeited for 
base purposes, cannot be denied. But it is not, therefore, fair to decry it when 
genuine. The principal argument in reason and good sense against methodism is, 
that it tends to debase human nature, and prevent the generous exertions of good- 
ness, by an unworthy supposition that God will pay no regard to them ; although 
it is positively said in the scriptures, that he " will reward every man according to 
his works." But I am happy to have it in my power to do justice to those whom 
it is the fashion to ridicule, without any knowledge of their tenets ; and this 1 can 
do by quoting a passage from one of their best apologists, Mr. Milner, who thus 
expresses their doctrine upon this subject : " Justified by faith, renewed in his fac- 
ulties, and constrained by the love of Christ, their believer moves in the sphere of 
love and gratitude, and all his duties flow more or less from this principle. And 
though they are accumulating for him in heaven a treasure of bliss proportioned to his faith- 
fulness and activity, and it is by no means inconsistent ivith his principles to feel the force of 
this consideration, yet love itself sweetens every duty to his mind ; and he thinks 
there is no absurdity in his feeling the love of God as the grand commanding 
principle of his life." Essays on several religious Subjects, Izfc. by Joseph Milner, A 
M. Master of the Grammar School of Kingston-upon-Hull, 1789,/. 11. 


1763. noblest faculty of man, would be of no service to the 

arT^ common people : but to tell them that they may die in 

54, ' a fit of drunkenness, and shew them how dreadful that 

would be, cannot fail to make a deep impression. Sir, 

when your Scotch clergy give up their homely manner, 

religion will soon decay in that country." Let this 

observation, as Johnson meant it, be ever remembered. 

I was much pleased to find myself with Johnson at 

Greenwich, which he celebrates in his " London" as 

a favourite scene. I had the poem in my pocket, and 

read the lines aloud with enthusiasm : 

" On Thames's banks in silent thought we stood, 
" Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood : 
" Pleas'd with the seat which gave Eliza birth, 
" We kneel, and kiss the consecrated earth." 

He remarked that the structure of Greenwich hospi- 
tal was too magnificent for a place of charity, and that 
its parts were too much detached, to make one great 

Buchanan, he said, was a very fine poet ; and ob- 
served, that he was the first who complimented a lady, 
by ascribing to her the different perfections of the hea- 
then goddesses; 9 but that Johnston improved upon 
this, by making his lady, at the same time, free from 
their defects. 

He dwelt upon Buchanan's elegant verses to Mary 
Queen of Scots, Nympha Caledomte, &c. and spoke 
with enthusiasm of the beauty of Latin verse. " All 
# the modern languages (said he) cannot furnish so me- 
lodious a line as 

" Formosam resonare doces Amarillida silvas." 

Afterwards he entered upon the business of the day, 
which was to give me his advice as to a course of 
study. And here I am to mention with much regret, 
that my record of what he said is miserably scanty. I 

9 [Epigram. Lib. II. " In Elizabeth. Anglise Reg."— I suspect that the authour's 
memory here deceived him, and that Johnson said, " the first modern poet ;" for 
there is a well known Epigram in the Anthologia, containing this kind of eulogy. 


recollect with admiration an animating blaze of elo- l " 63 ' 
quence, which roused every intellectual power in me ^t^ 
to the highest pitch, but must have dazzled me so 54. 
much, that my memory could not preserve the sub- 
stance of his discourse ; for the note which 1 find of it 
is no more than this : — " He ran over the grand scale of 
human knowledge ; advised me to select some particu- 
lar branch to excel in, but to acquire a little of every 
kind." The defect of my minutes will be fully sup- 
plied by a long letter upon the subject, which he fa- 
voured me with, after I had been some time at Utrecht, 
and which my readers will have the pleasure to peruse 
in its proper place. 

We walked in the evening in Greenwich Park. He 
asked me, I suppose, by way of trying my disposi- 
tion, " Is not this very fine V Having no exquisite 
relish of the beauties of Nature, and being more de- 
lighted with " the busy hum of men," 1 answered, 
"Yes, Sir; but not equal to Fleet-street." Johnson. 
" You are right, Sir." 

I am aware that many of mv readers may censure mv 
want of taste. Let me, however, shelter myself under 
the authority of a very fashionable Baronet 1 in the 
brilliant world, who, on his attention being called to 
the fragrance of a May evening in the country, observ- 
ed, " This may be very well ; but for my part, I pre- 
fer the smell of a flambeau at the play-house." 

We staid so long at Greenwich, that our sail up the 
river, in our return to London, was by no means so 
pleasant as in the morning ; for the night air was so 
cold that it made me shiver. I was the more sensible 
of it from having sat up all the night before recollecting 
and writing in my Journal what 1 thought worthy of 
preservation ; an exertion, which, during the first part 
of my acquaintance with Johnson, I frequently made. 

1 My friend Sir Michael Le Fleming. This gentleman with all his experience 
of sprightly and elegant life, inherits, with the beautiful family domain, no incon- 
siderable share of that love of literature, which distinguished his venerable grand- 
father, the Bishop of Carlisle. He one day observed to me, of Dr. Johnson, in s. 
felicity of phrase, " There is a blunt dignity about him on every occasion." 

[Sir Michael Le Fleming died of an apoplectick fit, while conversing at the Ad- 
miralty with Lord Howick, May 19, 180G. M.] 



1763. ]' remember having sat up four nights in one week 3 
jEtat' without being much incommoded in the day time. 
54. Johnson, whose robust frame was not in the least af- 
fected by the cold, scolded me, as if my shivering had 
been a paltry effeminacy, saying, ' 4 Why do you shiver 1" 
Sir William Scott, of the Commons, told me, that when 
he complained of a head-ach in the post-chaise, as they 
were, travelling together to Scotland, Johnson treated 
him in the same manner: " At your age, Sir, 1 had no 
head-ach." It is not easy to make allowance for sensa- 
tions in others, which we ourselves have not at the 
time. We must all have experienced how very differ- 
ently we are affected by the complaints of our neigh- 
bours, when we are well and when we are ill. In full 
health, we can scarcely believe that they suffer much ; 
so faint is the image of pain upon our imagination : 
when softened by sickness, we readily sympathize with 
the sufferings of others. 

We concluded the day at the Turk's Head coffee- 
house very socially. He was pleased to listen to a 
particular account which I gave him of my family, and 
of its hereditary estate, as to the extent and population 
of which he asked questions, and made calculations : 
recommending, at the same time, a liberal kindness to 
the tenantry, as people over whom the proprietor was 
placed by Providence. He took delight in hearing my 
description of the romantick seat of my ancestors. " I 
must be there, Sir, (said he) and we will live in the 
old castle ; and if there is not a room in it remaining, 
we will build one." I was highly flattered, but could 
scarcely indulge a hope that Auchinleck would indeed 
be honoured by his presence, and celebrated by a de- 
scription, as it afterwards was, in his " Journey to the 
Western Islands." 

After we had again talked of my setting out for Hol- 
land, he said, " I must see thee out of England ; 1 will 
accompany you to Harwich." I could not find words 
to express what 1 felt upon this unexpected and very 
great mark of his affectionate regard. 

Next dav, Sunday, Julv 31, I told him I had been 
that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, 


where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson. " Sir, 1763. 
a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his ^ lat# 
hind legs. It is not done well ; but you are surprised 54. 
to find it done at all." 

On Tuesday, August 2, (the day of my departure 
from London having been fixed for the 5th,) Dr. John- 
son did me the honour to pass a part of the morning 
with me at my Chambers. He said, that " he always 
felt an inclination to do nothing." 1 observed, that it 
was strange to think that the most indolent man in 
Britain had written the most laborious work, The En- 
glish Dictionary. 

I mentioned an imprudent publication, by a certain 
friend of his, at an early period of life, and asked him 
if he thought it would hurt him. Johnson. " No, 
Sir ; not much. It may, perhaps, be mentioned at an 

I had now made good my title to be a privileged man, 
and was carried by him in the evening to drink tea 
with Miss Williams, 2 whom, though under the misfor- 

2 [In a paper already referred to, (see p. 78.) a lady who appears to have been 
well acquainted with Mrs. Williams, thus speaks of her : 

" Mrs. Williams was a person extremely interesting. She had an uncommon 
firmness of mind, a boundless curiosity, retentive memory, and strong judgement. 
She had various powers of pleasing. Her personal afflictions and slender fortune 
she seemed to forget, when she had the power of doing an act of kindness : she 
was social, cheerful, and active, in a state of body that was truly deplorable. Her 
regard to Dr. Johnson was formed with such strength of judgement and firm es- 
teem, that her voice never hesitated when she repeated his maxims, or recited his 
good deeds ; though upon many other occasions her want of -sight had led her to 
make so much use of her ear, as to affect her speech. 

" Mrs. Williams was blind before she was acquainted with Dr. Johnson. — She had 
many resources, though none very great. With the Miss Wilkinsons she general- 
ly passed a part of the year, and received from them presents, and from the first 
who died, a legacy of cloaths and money. The last uf them, Mrs. Jane, left her an 
annual rent ; but from the blundering manner of the Will, I fear she never reaped 
the benefit of it. That lady left money to erect an hospital for ancient maids : but 
the number she had allotted being too great for the donation, the Doctor [Johnson] 
3aid, it would be better to expunge the word maintain, and put into starve such a 
number of old maids. They asked him, What name should be given it ? he repli- 
ed, " Let it be called Jenny's Whim." [The name of a well-known tavern near 
Chelsea, in former days.] 

" I.ady Phillips made her a small annual allowance, and some other Welsh ladie*, 
to all of whom she was related. Mrs. Montagu, on the death of Mr. Montagu, 
settled upon her Thy deed] ten pounds per annum. — As near as I can calculate, Mrs. 
Williams had about thirty-five or forty pounds a year. The furniture she used [in 
her apartment in Dr. Johnson's house] washer own ; herexpences were small, tea 
and bread and butter being at least half of her nourishment. Sometimes she had 
a servant or chare-woman to do the ruder offices of the house : but she was herself 

voi,. r. 46 

36 c 2 THE LIFE OF 

•763. tune of having lost her sight, I found to be agreeable 

fi?{^ in conversation ; for she had a variety of literature, and 

54. expressed herself well ; but her peculiar value was the 

intimacy in which she had long lived with Johnson, by 

which she was well acquainted with his habits, and 

knew how to lead him on to talk. 

After tea he carried me to what he called his walk, 
which was a long narrow paved court in the neighbour- 
hood, overshadowed bv some trees. There we saun- 
tered a considerable time ; and 1 complained to him 
that my love of London and of his company was such, 
that I shrunk almost from the thought of going awa}' 
even to travel, which is generally so much desired by 
young men. He roused me by manly and spirited 
conversation. He advised me, when settled in any 
place abroad, to study with an eagerness after knowl- 
edge, and to apply to Greek an hour every day ; and 
when 1 was moving about, to read diligently the great 
book of mankind. 

On Wednesday, August 3, we had our last social 
evening at the Turk's Head coffee-house, before my set- 
ting out for foreign parts. I had the misfortune, before 
we parted, to irritate him unintentionally. 1 mention- 
ed to him how common it was in the world to tell ab- 
surd stories of him, and to ascribe to him very strange 
sayings. Johnson. " What do they make me say, Sir I" 
Boswell. " Why, Sir, as an instance very strange in- 
deed, (laughing heartily as 1 spoke,) David Hume told 
me, you said that you would stand before a batterv of 
cannon to restore the Convocation to its full powers." 
Little did I apprehend that he had actually said this : 
but I was soon convinced of my errour ; for, with a de- 
termined look, he thundered out " And would I not, 
Sir? Shall the Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland have its 
General Assembly, and the Church of England be de- 
active and industrious. I have frequently seen her at work. Upon remarking- 
one day her facility in moving about the house, searching into drawers, and find- 
ing books, without the help of sight, ' Believe me, (said she,) persons who cannot 
do those common offices without sight; did but little while they enjoyed that bless- 
ing.' - Scanty circumstances, bad health, and blindness are surely a sufficient apol- 
ogy for her being sometimes impatient : her natural disposition was good, friendly, 
and humane." M.] 


nied its Convocation !" He was walking up and down 17<>3. 
the room, while I told him the anecdote ; but when he JT'^ 
uttered this explosion of high-church zeal, he had come 54 . 
close to my chair, and his eyes Hashed with indigna- 
tion. 1 bowed to the storm, and diverted the force of 
it. bv leading him to expatiate on the influence which 
relierion derived from maintaining the church with great 
external respectability. 

I must not omit to mention that he this year wrote 
" The life of Ascham,|" and the Dedication to the Earl 
of Shaftesbury,t prefixed to the edition of that writer's 
English works, published by Mr. Hennet. 

On Friday, August 5, we set out early in the morn- 
ing in the Harwich stage-coach. A fat elderly gentle- 
woman, and a young Dutchman, seemed the most in- 
clined among us to conversation. At the inn where we 
dined, the gentlewoman said that she had done her 
best to educate her children ; and, particularly, that 
she had never suffered them to be a moment idle. 
Johnson. " 1 wish, Madam, you would educate me 
too : for 1 have been an idle fellow all my life." " 1 
am sure, Sir, (said she) you have not been idle." John- 
son. " Nay, Madam, it is very true ; and that gentle- 
man there, (pointing to me,) has been idle. He was 
idle at Edinburgh. His father sent him to Glasgow, 
where he continued to be idle. He then came to 
London where he has been very idle ; and now he is 
going to Utrecht, where he will be as idle as ever." I 
asked him privately how he could expose me so. John- 
son. " Poh, poh ! (said he) they knew nothing about 
you, and will think of it no more." In the afternoon 
the gentlewoman talked violently against the Roman 
Catholicks, and of the honours of the Inquisition. To 
the utter astonishment of all the passengers but my- 
self, who knew that he could talk upon any side of a 
question, he defended the Inquisition, and maintained, 
that " false doctrine should be checked on its first ap- 
pearance ; that the civil power should unite with the 
church in punishing those who dare to attack the estab- 
lished religion, and that such only were punished by 
the Inquisition." He had in his pocket " Pomponius 


1763. Mela tie Situ Orbis" in which he read occasionally, and 
]jg^ seemed very intent upon ancient geography. Though 
54. by no means niggardly, his attention to what was gen- 
erally right was so minute, that having observed at one 
of the stages that I ostentatiously gave a shilling to the 
coachman, when the custom was for each passenger to 
give only six-pence, he took me aside and scolded me, 
saying that what I had done would make the coach- 
man dissatisfied with all the rest of the passengers, who 
gave him no more than his due. This was a just re- 
primand ; for in whatever way a man may indulge his 
generosity or his vanity in spending his money, for the 
sake of others he ought not to raise the price of any 
article for which there is a constant demand. 

He talked of Mr. Blacklock's poetry, so far as it was 
descriptive of visible objects ; and observed, that " as 
its authour had the misfortune to be blind, we may be 
absolutely sure that such passages are combinations of 
what he has remembered of the works of other writers 
who could see. That foolish fellow, Spence, has la- 
boured to explain philosophically how Blacklock may 
have done, by means of his own faculties, what it is 
impossible he should do. The solution, as I have given 
it, is plain. Suppose, I know a man to be so lame that 
he is absolutely incapable to move himself, and I find 
him in a different room from that in which I left him ; 
shall I puzzle myself with idle conjectures, that, per- 
haps, his nerves have by some unknown change all at 
once become effective ! No, Sir, it is clear how he got 
into a different room : he was carried." 

Having stopped a night at Colchester, Johnson talk- 
ed of that town with veneration, for having stood a 
siege for Charles the First. The Dutchman alone now 
remained with us. He spoke English tolerably well ; 
and thinking to recommend himself to us by expatiating 
on the superiority of the criminal jurisprudence of this 
country over that of Holland, he inveighed against the 
barbarity of putting an accused person to the torture, 
in order to force a confession. But Johnson was as 
ready for this, as for the inquisition. " Why, Sir, you 
do not, I find, understand the law of your own country. 


To torture in Holland is considered as a favour to an 1763. 
accused person ; for no man is put to the torture there, ^T^ 
unless there is as much evidence against him as would 54. 
amount to conviction in England. An accused person 
among you, therefore, has one chance more to escape 
punishment, than those who are tried among us." 

At supper this night he talked of good eating with 
uncommon satisfaction. " Some people (said he,) 
have a foolish way of not minding or pretending not to 
mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly 
very studiously, and very carefully ; for I look upon it, 
that he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind 
any thing else." He now appeared to me Jean Bull 
philosopher and he was for the moment, not only serious 
but vehement. Yet I have heard him, upon other oc- 
casions, talk with great contempt of people who were 
anxious to gratify their palates ; and the 2()6th number 
of his Rambler is a masterly essay against gulosity. 
His practice, indeed, I must acknowledge, may be con- 
sidered as casting the balance of his different opinions 
upon this subject ; for I never knew any man who rel- 
ished good eating more than he did. When at table, 
he was totally absorbed in the business of the moment ; 
his looks seemed rivetted to his plate ; nor would he, 
unless when in very high company, say one word, or 
even pay the least attention to what was said by others, 
till he had satisfied his appetite ; which was so fierce, 
and indulged with such intenseness, that while in the 
act of eating, the veins of his forehead swelled, and gen- 
erally a strong perspiration was visible. To those 
whose sensations were delicate, this could not but be 
disgusting ; and it was doubtless not very suitable to 
the character of a philosopher, who should be dis- 
tinguished by self-command. But it must be own- 
ed, that. Johnson, though he could be rigidly ab- 
stemious, was not a temperate man either in eating 
or drinking. He could refrain, but he could not use 
moderately. He told me, that he had fasted two 
davs without inconvenience, and that he had never 
been hungry but once. They who beheld with won- 
der how much he eat upon all occasions when his 


1/63. dinner was to his taste, could not easily conceive what 
3?^ he must have meant by hunger ; and not only was he 
54. remarkable for the extraordinary quantity which he eat, 
but he was, or affected to be, a man of very nice dis- 
cernment in the science of cookery. He used to des- 
cant critically on the dishes which had been at table 
where he had dined or supped, and to recollect very mi- 
nutely what he had liked. 1 remember when he was 
in Scotland, his praising " Gordons palates" (a dish of 
palates at the Honourable Alexander Gordon's) with a 
warmth of expression which might have done honour 
to more important subjects. " As for Maclaurin's imi- 
tation of a made dish, it was a wretched attempt." He 
about the same time was so much displeased with the 
performances of a nobleman's French cook, that he ex- 
claimed with vehemence, " I'd throw such a rascal into 
the river ;" and he then proceeded to alarm a lady at 
whose house he was to sup, by the following manifesto 
of his skill : " I, Madam, who live at a variety of good 
tables, am a much better judge of cookery, than any 
person who has a very tolerable cook, but lives much at 
home ; for his palate is gradually adapted to the taste of 
his cook ; whereas, Madam, in trying by a wider range, I 
can more exquisitely judge." When invited to dine, 
even with an intimate friend, he was not pleased if some- 
thing better than a plain dinner was not prepared for 
him. 1 have heard him say on such an occasion, " This 
was a good dinner enough, to be sure ; but it was not a 
dinner to ask a man to." On the other hand, he was 
wont to express, with great glee, his satisfaction when 
he had been entertained quite to his mind. One day 
when he had dined with his neighbour and landlord in 
Bolt-court, Mr. Allen, the printer, whose old house 
keeper had studied his taste in every thing, he pro- 
nounced this eulogy ; " Sir, we could not have had a 
better dinner had there been & Synod of Cooks" 

While we were left by ourselves, after the Dutch- 
man had gone to bed, Dr. Johnson talked of that studi- 
ed behaviour which many have recommended and prac- 
tised. He disapproved of it : and said, " I never con- 
sidered whether 1 should be a grave man, or a merry 


man, but just let inclination, for the time, have its 1763. 

course -" m£t. 

He flattered me with some hopes that he would, in 54. 
the course of the following' summer, come over to I fol- 
land, and accompany me in a tour through the Nether- 

I teased him with fanciful apprehensions of unhappi- 
ness. A moth having fluttered round the candle, and 
burnt itself, he laid hold of this little incident to ad- 
monish me ; saying, with a sly look, and in a solemn 
but a quiet tone, " That creature was its own tormen- 
tor, and 1 believe its name was Bos well." 

Next day we got to Harwich to dinner ; and my 
passage in the packet-boat to Helvoetsluys being se- 
cured, and my baggage put on board, we dined at our 
inn by ourselves. I happened to say it would be terri- 
ble if he should not find a speedy opportunity of re- 
turning to London, and be confined in so dull a place. 
Johnson. " Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to use big- 
words for little matters. It would not be terrible, though 
1 were to be detained some time here." The practice 
of using words of disproportionate magnitude, is, no 
doubt, too frequent every where ; but, 1 think, most re- 
markable among the Trench, of which, all who have 
travelled in Trance must have been struck with innu- 
merable instances. 

We went and looked at the church, and having gone 
into it and walked up to the altar, Johnson, whose piety 
was constant and fervent, sent me to my knees, saying, 
" Now that you are going to leave your native country, 
recommend yourself to the protection of your Creator 
and Redeemer." 

After we came out of the church, we stood talking 
for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious 
sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that 
every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, 
that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it 
is impossible to refute it. 1 never shall forget the alac- 
rity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot 
with force against a large stone, till he rebound- 


1763. ed from it, " I refute it thus." 3 This was a stout ex~ 
^^ emplification of the first truths of Fere Bouffier, or the 
54. " original principles of Reid and of Beatti ; without ad- 
mitting which, we can no more argue in metaphysicks ? 
than we can argue in mathematicks without axioms. 
To me it is not conceivable how Berkeley can be an- 
swered by pure reasoning ; but I know that the nice 
and difficult task was to have been undertaken by one 
of the most luminous minds of the present age, had not 
politicks " turned him from calm philosophy aside." 
What an admirable display of subtilty, united with bril- 
liance, might his contending with Berkeley have afford- 
ed us ! How must we, when we reflect on the loss of 
such an intellectual feast, regret that he should be char- 
acterised as the man, 

" Who born for the universe narrow'd his mind, 

" And to party gave up what was meant for mankind." 

My revered friend walked down with me to the beach, 
where we embraced and parted with tenderness, and 
engaged to correspond by letters. I said, " I hope, Sir, 
you will not forget me in my absence." Johnson. 
" Nay, Sir, it is more likely you should forget me, than 
that 1 should forget }'ou." As the vessel put out to sea, 
I kept my eyes upon him for a considerable time, while 
he remained rolling his majestick frame in his usual 
manner ; and at last I perceived him walk back into the 
town, and he disappeared. 

Utrecht seeming at first very dull to me, after the 
animated scenes of London, my spirits were grievously 
affected ; and I wrote to Johnson a plaintive and de- 
sponding letter, to which he paid no regard. After- 
wards, when I had acquired a firmer tone of mind, 1 
wrote him a second letter, expressing much anxiety to 
hear from him. At length I received the following 

3 [Dr. Johnson seems to have been imperfectly acquainted with Berkeley's doc- 
trine ; as his experiment only proves that we have the sensation of solidity, which 
Berkeley did not deny. — He admitted that we had sensations or ideas that are usual- 
ly called sensible qualities, one of which is sotidity : he only denied the existence of 
matter, i. e. an inert senseless substance, in which they are supposed to subsist. — 
Johnson's exemplification concurs witli the vulgar notion, that solidity is matter. 


epistle, which was of important service to me, and, I 1763. 
trust, will be so to many others. jEt-iT 

A Mr. Mr. Boswell, ci la Cour de I'JEmpereur, Utrecht. 


" You are not to think yourself forgotten, or crim- 
inally neglected, that you have had yet no letter from 
me. I love to see my friends, to hear from them, to 
talk to them, and to talk of them ; but it is not without 
a considerable effort of resolution that I prevail upon 
myself to write. I would not, however, gratify my own 
indolence by the omission of any important duty, or any 
office of real kindness. 

" To tell you that I am or am not well, that I have 
or have not been in the country, that I drank your 
health in the room in which we last sat together, and 
that your acquaintance continue to speak of you with 
their former kindness, topicks with which those letters 
are commonly filled which are written only for the sake 
of writing, I seldom shall think worth communicating; 
but if I can have it in my power to calm any harassing 
disquiet, to excite any virtuous desire, to rectify any 
important opinion, or fortify any generous resolution, 
you need not doubt but I shall at least wish to prefer 
the pleasure of gratifying a friend much less esteemed 
than yourself, before the gloomy calm of idle vacancy. 
Whether I shall easily arrive at an exact punctuality of 
correspondence, I cannot tell. 1 shall, at present, ex- 
pect that you will receive this in return for two which I 
have had from you. The first, indeed, gave me an ac- 
count so hopeless of the state of your mind, that it 
hardly admitted or deserved an answer ; by the second 
I was much better pleased ; and the pleasure will still 
be increased by such a narrative of the progress of your 
studies, as may evince the continuance of an equal and 
rational application of your mind to some useful enquiry. 

" You will, perhaps, wish to ask, what study 1 would 
recommend. 1 shall not speak of theology, because it 
ought not to be considered as a question whether you 
shall endeavour to know the will of God. 

vol. 1. 47 


1763. « I shall, therefore, consider only such studies as we 
are at liberty to pursue or to neglect ; and of these I 
know not how you will make a better choice, than by 
studying the civil law as your father advises, and the 
ancient languages, as you had determined for yourself; 
at least resolve, while you remain in any settled resi- 
dence, to spend a certain number of hours every day 
amongst your books. The dissipation of thought of 
which you complain, is nothing more than the vacilla- 
tion of a mind suspended between different motives, 
and changing its direction as any motive gains or loses 
strength. If you can but kindle in your mind any 
strong desire, if you can but keep predominant any 
wish for some particular excellence or attainment, the 
ousts of imagination will break awav, without any ef- 
feet upon your conduct, and commonly without any 
traces left upon the memory. 

" There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart a de- 
sire of distinction, which inclines every man first to 
hope, and then to believe, that nature has given him 
something peculiar to himself. This vanity makes one 
mind nurse aversion, and another actuate desires, till 
they rise by art much above their original state of pow- 
er ; and as affectation in time, improves to habit, they 
at last tyrannise over him who at first encouraged them 
only for show. Every desire is a viper in the bosom, 
Mho, while he was chill, was harmless ; but when 
warmth gave him strength, exerted it in poison. You 
know a gentleman, who, when first he set his foot 
in the gay world, as he prepared himself to whirl in the 
vortex of pleasure, imagined a total indifference and 
universal negligence to be the most agreeable concom- 
itants of youth, and the strongest indication of an airy 
temper and a quick apprehension. Vacant to every ob- 
ject, and sensible of every impulse, he thought that all 
appearance of diligence would deduct something from 
the reputation of genius ; and hoped that he should ap- 
pear to attain, amidst all the ease of carelessness, and 
all the tumult of diversion, that knowledge and those 
accomplishments which mortals of the common fabrick 
obtain only by mute abstraction and solitary drudgery. 


lie tried this scheme of life awhile, was made weary of 17(53; 
it by his sense and bis virtue ; he then wished to return J^ 
to bis studies; and finding long- habits of idleness and 54. 
pleasure harder to be cured than he expected, still will- 
ing to retain his claim to some extraordinary preroga- 
tives, resolved the common consequences of irregulari- 
ty into an unalterable decree of destiny, and concluded 
that Nature had originally formed him incapable of ra- 
tional employment. 

" Let all such fancies, illusive and destructive, be 
banished henceforward from your thoughts for ever. 
Resolve, and keep your resolution ; choose, and pursue 
your choice. If you spend this day in study, you will 
find yourself still more able to study to-morrow ; not 
that you are to expect that you shall at once obtain a 
complete victory. Depravity is not very easily over- 
come. Resolution will sometimes relax, and diligence 
will sometimes be interrupted ; but let no accidental 
surprise or deviation, whether short or long, dispose 
you to despondency. Consider these failings as inci- 
dent to all mankind. Begin again where you left off, 
and endeavour to avoid the seducements that prevailed 
over you before. 

" This, my dear Boswell, is advice which, perhaps, 
has been often given you, and given you without ef- 
fect. But this advice, if you will not take from others, 
you must take from your own reflections, if you purpose 
to do the duties of the station to which the bounty of 
Providence has called you. 

" Let me have a long letter from you as soon as you 
can. 1 hope you continue your journal, and enrich it 
with many observations upon the country in which you 
reside. It will be a favour if you can get me any books 
in the Frisick language, and can enquire how the poor 
are maintained in the Seven Provinces. I am, dear Sir, 

" Your most affectionate servant, 

" London, Dec. 8, 1763. " Sam. Johnson.*' 

1 am sorry to observe, that neither in my own min- 
utes, nor in my letters to Johnson which have been 
preserved bv him. can I find anv information how the 


1764. poor are maintained in the Seven Provinces. But 1 
)e^ shall extract from one of my letters what I learnt con- 
55. eerning the other subject of his curiosity. 

" I have made all possible enquiry with respect to 
the Frisick language, and find that it has been less cul- 
tivated than any other of the northern dialects ; a cer- 
tain proof of which is their deficiency of books. Of 
the old Frisick there are no remains, except some an- 
cient laws preserved by Schotams in his ' Beschryvinge 
van die Heer/ykheid van Friesland ;' and his ' Historia 
Frisica.' I have not yet been able to find these books. 
Professor Trotz, who formerly was of the University of 
V r ranyken in Friesland, and is at present preparing an 
edition of all the Frisick laws, gave me this information. 
Of the modern Frisick, or what is spoken by the boors 
of this day, I have procured a specimen. It is 4 Gis- 
bert Japix's Rymelerie? which is the only book that 
they have. It is amazing that they have no translation 
of the bible, no treatises of devotion, nor even any of 
the ballads and story-books which are so agreeable to 
country people. You shall have Japix by the first 
convenient opportunity. I doubt not to pick up Scho- 
tanus. Mynheer Trotz has promised me his assistance/' 
Early in 1764 Johnson paid a visit to the Langton 
family, at their seat of Langton in Lincolnshire, where 
he passed some time, much to his satisfaction. His 
friend Bennet Langton, it will not be doubted, did every 
thing in his power to make the place agreeable to so 
illustrious a guest ; and the elder Mr. Langton and his 
lady, being fully capable of understanding his value, 
were not wanting in attention. He, however, told me, 
that old Mr. Langton, though a man of considerable 
learning, had so little allowance to make for his occa- 
sional "laxity of talk," that because in the course of 
discussion he sometimes mentioned what might be 
said in favour of the peculiar tenets of the Romish 
church, he went to his grave believing him to be of that 

Johnson, during his stay at Langton, had the ad- 
vantage of a good library, and saw several gentlemen of 

DR. JOHNSON. i$73 

the neighbourhood. I have obtained from Mr. Lang- 1764. 
ton the following particulars of this period. jEtat! 

He was now fully convinced that he could not have 55. 
been satisfied with a country living ; for talking of a 
respectable clergyman in Lincolnshire, he observed, 
" This man, Sir, fills up the duties of his life well. 1 
approve of him, but could not imitate him." 

To a lady who endeavoured to vindicate herself from 
blame for neglecting social attention to worthy neigh- 
bours, by saying " I would go to them if it would do 
them any good ;" he said, " What good, Madam, do 
you expect to have in your power to do them? It is 
shewing them respect, and that is doing them good." 

So socially accommodating was he, that once when 
Mr. Langton and he were driving together in a coach, 
and Mr. Langton complained of being sick, he insisted 
that they should go out, and sit on the back of it in the 
open air, which they did. And being sensible how- 
strange the appearance must be, observed, that a coun- 
tryman whom they saw in a field would probably be 
thinking, " If these two madmen should come down, 
what would become of me !" 

Soon after his return to London, which was in Feb- 
ruary, was founded that Club which existed long 
without a name, but at Mr. Garrick's funeral became 
distinguished by the title of The Literary Club. 
Sir Joshua Reynolds had the merit of being the first 
proposer of it, to which Johnson acceded, and the orig- 
inal members were, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, 
Mr. Edmund Burke, Dr. Nugent, Mr. Beauclerk, Mr. 
Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Chamier, and Sir John 
Hawkins. They met at the Turk's Head, in Gerrard- 
street, Soho, one evening in every week, at seven, and 
generally continued their conversation till a pretty late 
hour. This club has been gradually increased to its 
present number, thirty-five. After about ten years, in- 
stead of supping weekly, it was resolved to dine to- 
gether once a fortnight during the meeting of Parlia- 
ment. Their original tavern having been converted 
into a private house, they moved first to Prince's in 
Sackville-street, then to Le Telier's in Dover-street, and 


1764. now meet at Parsloe's, St. JamesVstreet. Between 
mQt. t ' le time ot its formation, and the time at which this 
55. * work is passing through the press, (June 1792,)* the 
following persons, now dead, were members of it : Mr. 
Dunning, (afterwards Lord Ashburton,) Mr. Samuel 
Dyer, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Shipley Bishop of St. Asaph, 
Mr. Vesey, Mr. Thomas Warton and Dr. Adam Smith. 
The present members are, Mr. Burke, Mr. Langton, 
Lord Charlemont, Sir Robert Chambers, Dr. Percy 
Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Barnard Bishop of Killaloe, 
Dr. Marlay Bishop of Clonfert, Mr. Fox, Dr. George 
Fordyce, Sir William Scott, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir 
Charles Bunbury, Mr. Windham of Norfolk, Mr. Sher- 
idan, Mr. Gibbon, Sir William Jones, Mr. Col man, Mr. 
Steevens, Dr. Burney, Dr. Joseph Warton, Mr. Malone, 
Lord Ossory, Lord Spencer, Lord Lucan, Lord Pal- 
mers ton, Lord Eliot, Lord Macartney, Mr. Richard 
Burke, junior, Sir William Hamilton, Dr. Warren, Mr. 
Courtenay, Dr. Hinchliffe Bishop of Peterborough, the 
Duke of Leeds, Dr. Douglas Bishop of Salisbury, and 
the writer of this account. 5 

Sir John Hawkins 6 represents himself as a " seceder" 
from this society, and assigns as the reason of his 
"withdrawing" himself from it, that its late hours were 
nconsistent with his domestick arrangements. In this 
he is not accurate ; for the fact was, that he one even- 
ing attacked Mr. Burke, in so rude a manner, that all 
the company testified their displeasure ; and at their 

' [The second edition is here spoken of. M.] 

[The Literary Club has since been deprived by death of the authour of this 
work, Mr. Burke, his son Mr. Richard Burke, Mr. Gibbon, Sir William Jones, Mr. 
Colman, Dr. Warren, Dr. Hinchliffe Bishop of Peterborough, the Duke of Leeds, 
•he Earl of Lucan, James Earl of Charlemont, Mr. Steevens, Dr. Warton, Mr. 
Langton, Lord Palmerston, Dr. Fordyce, Dr. Marlay Bishop of Waterford, Sir 
William Hamilton, Sir Robert Chambers, Lord Eliot, Lord Macartney, the Rev. 
Dr. Farmer, and the Marquis of Bath. The two persons last named, were chosen 
members of it after the above account was written. It has since that time acquir- 
ed Sir Charles Blagden, Major Rennell, the Honourable Frederick North, the Right 
Honourable George Canning, Mr. Marsden, the Right Honourable J. H. Frere, the 
Right Honourable Thomas Grenville, the Reverend Dr. Vincent Dean of Westmin- 
.-.ter, Mr. William Lock, Jun. Mr. George Ellis, Lord Minto, Dr. French Lawrence, 
the Right Honourable Sir William Grant Master of the Rolls, Sir George Staun- 
ton, Bart. Dr. Horsley Bishop of St. Asaph, Mr. Charles Wilkins, the Right Hon- 
ourable William Drummond, and Henry Vaughan, M. D. M.] 

6 Life of Johnson, p. 425, 


next meeting their reception was such, that he never 1764. 
came again. 7 ^££ 

He is equally inaccurate with respect to Mr. Gar- .55. 
rick, of whom he says, " he trusted that the least inti- 
mation of a desire to come among us, would procure 
him a ready admission ;" but in this he was mistaken. 
Johnson consulted me upon it ; and when 1 could find 
no objection to receiving him, exclaimed, — ' He will 
disturb us by his buffoonery ;' — and afterwards so man- 
aged matters, that he was never formally proposed, and, 
by consequence, never admitted." 8 

In justice both to Mr. Garrick and Dr. Johnson, T 
think it necessary to rectify this mis-statement. The 
truth is, that not very long after the institution of our 
club, Sir Joshua Reynolds was speaking of it to Gar- 
rick. " I like it much, (said he,) I think I shall be of 
you." When Sir Joshua mentioned this to Dr. John- 
son, he was much displeased with the actor's conceit. 
" He'll be of us, (said Johnson) how does he know we 
will permit him 1 the first Duke in England has no 
right to hold such language." However, when Gar- 
rick was regularly proposed some time afterwards, John- 
son, though he had taken a momentary offence at his 
arrogance, warmly and kindly supported him, and he 
was accordingly elected, 9 was a most agreeable mem- 
ber, and continued to attend our meetings to the time of 
his death. 

Mrs. Piozzi, 1 has also given a similar misrepresenta- 
tion of Johnson's treatment of Garrick in this particu- 
lar, as if he had used these contemptuous expressions : 
" if Garrick does apply, I'll black-ball him. — Surely, one 
ought to sit in a society like ours, 

Unelbow'd by a gamester, pimp, or player." 

I am happy to be enabled by such unquestionable 

7 From Sir Joshua Reynolds. 

[The Knight having refused to pay his portion of the reckoning for supper, be- 
cause he usually eat no supper at home, Johnson observed, " Sir John, Sir, is a 
very unclubable man." B.] 

8 Life of Johnson, p. 425. 

« [Mr. Garrick was elected in March 1773. M.] 
1 Letters to and from Dr, Johnson. Vol, II. p. 278. 


1764. authority as that of Sir Joshua Reynolds, as well as 
j?^ from my own knowledge, to vindicate at once the heart 
55. of Johnson and the social merit of Garrick. 

In this year, except what he may have done in re- 
vising Shakspeare, we do not find that he laboured 
much in literature. He wrote a review of Grainger's 
" Sugar Cane," a poem, in the London Chronicle. He 
told me, that Dr. Percy wrote the greatest part of this 
review ; but, I imagine, he did not recollect it distinctly, 
for it appears to be mostly, if not altogether, his own. 
He also wrote in the Critical Review, an account^ of 
Goldsmith's excellent poem, " The Traveller." 

The ease and independence to which he had at last 
attained by royal munificence, increased his natural 
indolence. In his " Meditations," he thus accuses 
himself: "Good Friday, April 20, 176'4. 1 have 
made no reformation ; I have lived totally useless, more 
sensual in thought, and more addicted to wine and 
meat." 2 And next morning he thus feelingly com- 
plains : " My indolence, since my last reception of the 
sacrament, has sunk into grosser sluggishness, and my 
dissipation spread into wilder negligence. My thoughts 
have been clouded with sensuality ; and, except that 
from the beginning of this year I have, in some measure 
forborne excess of strong drink, my appetites have pre- 
dominated over my reason. A kind of strange oblivi- 
on has overspread me, so that I know not what has be- 
come of the last year ; and perceive that incidents and 
intelligence pass over me without leaving any impres- 
sion." He then solemnly says, " This is not the life 
to which heaven is promised ;" 3 and he earnestly re- 
solves an amendment. 

It was his custom to observe certain days with a pious 
abstraction : viz. New-year's-day, the day of his wife's 
death, Good Friday, Easter-day, and his own birth-day. 
He this year says, " I have now spent fifty-five years in 
resolving ; having, from the earliest time almost that I 
can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I 
have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is 

1 Prayers and Meditations, p. 50. 
: Prayers and Meditations, v. 51 


pressing, since the time of doing is short. O God, grant 1764. 
me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions, for JjJ^ 
Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."* Such a tenderness 55.* 
of conscience, such a fervent desire of improvement, 
will rarely be found. It is, surely, not decent in those 
who are hardened in indifference to spiritual improve- 
ment, to treat this pious anxiety of Johnson with con- 

About this time he was afflicted with a very severe 
return of the hypochondriack disorder, which was ever 
lurking about him. He was so ill, as, notwithstanding 
his remarkable love of company, to be entirely averse to 
society, the most fatal symptom of that malady. Dr. 
Adams told me, that, as an old friend he was admitted 
to visit him, and that he found him in a deplorable 
state, sighing, groaning, talking to himself, and restless- 
ly walking from room to room. He then used this em- 
phatical expression of the misery which he felt : " I 
w r ould consent to have a limb amputated to recover my 

Talking to himself was, indeed, one of his singulari- 
ties ever since I knew him. 1 was certain that he was 
frequently uttering pious ejaculations ; for fragments of 
the Lord's Prayer have been distinctly overheard. s His 
friend Mr. Thomas Davies, of whom Churchill says, 


That Davies hath a very pretty wife :" 

-' ' 

when Dr. Johnson muttered " lead us not into tempt 
ation ; used with waggish and gallant humour to whis 
per Mrs. Davies, " You, my dear, are the cause of this 
He had another particularity, of which none of his 

4 Prayers and Meditations, p. 584. 
* [It used to be imagined at Mr. Thrale's, when Johnson retired to a window or 
corner of the room, by perceiving his lips in motion, and hearing a murmur with- 
out audible articulation, that he was praying ; but this was not always the case, 
for I was once, perhaps unperceived by him, writing at a table, so near the place 
of his retreat, that I heard him repeating some lines in an ode of Horace, over and 
over again, as if by iteration, to exercise the organ? cf speech, and fix the ode in 
his memory. 

Audiet cives acuisse ferrum 

Quo graves Persa; melius perirent, 

Audiet pugnas 

It was during the American War. B.^ 

VOL. I. 


1764. friends even ventured to ask an explanation. It ap- 
vEtaT P earec l t0 me some superstitious habit, which he had 
55. contracted early, and from which he had never called 
upon his reason to disentangle him. This was his 
anxious care to go out or in at a door or passage, by a 
certain number of steps from a certain point, or at least 
so as that either his right or his left foot, (I am not cer- 
tain which,) should constantly make the first actual 
movement when he came close to the door or passage. 
Thus I conjecture : for I have, upon innumerable oc- 
casions, observed him suddenly stop, and then seem to 
count his steps with a deep earnestness ; and when he 
had neglected or gone wrong in this sort of magical 
movement, I have seen him go back again, put himself 
m a proper posture to begin the ceremony, and, hav- 
ing gone through it, break from his abstraction, walk 
briskly on, and join his companion. A strange instance 
of something of this nature, even when on horseback, 
happened when he was in the isle of Sky. 6 Sir Josh- 
ua Reynolds has observed him to go a good way about, 
rather than cross a particular alley in Leicester-fields ; 
but this Sir Joshua imputed to his having had some dis- 
agreeable recollection associated with it. 

That the most minute singularities which belonged 
to him, and made very observable parts of his appear- 
ance and manner, may not be omitted, it is requisite to 
mention, that while talking or even musing as he sat 
in his chair, he commonlv held his head to one side to- 
wards his right shoulder, and shook it in a tremulous 
manner, moving his body backwards and forwards, and 
rubbing his left knee in the same direction, with the 
palm of his hand. In the intervals of articulating he 
made various sounds with his mouth, sometimes as if 
ruminating, or what is called chewing the cud, some- 
times giving a half whistle, sometimes making his tongue 
play backwards from the roof of his mouth, as if cluck- 
ing like a hen, and sometimes protruding it against his 
upper gums in front, as if pronouncing ciuickly under 
his breath, too, too, too : all this accompanied some- 

6 Journal ef a Tour to the Hebridesj 3d. edit. p. 316. 

DR. JOHNSON. '379 


times with a thoughtful look, but more frequently with 1764. 
a smile. Generally when he had concluded a period, in ^'^ 
the course of a dispute, by which time he was a good 55, 
deal exhausted by violence and vociferation, he used to 
blow out his breath like a whale. This 1 suppose was 
a relief to his lungs ; and seemed in him to be a con- 
tempt uous mode of expression, as if he had made the 
arguments of his opponent lly like chaff' before the 

I am fully aware how very obvious an occasion I here 
give for the sneering jocularity of such as have no relish 
of an exact likeness ; which to render complete, he who 
draws it must not disdain the slightest strokes. But if 
witlings should be inclined to attack this account, let 
them have the candour to quote what I have offered in 
my defence. 

He was for some time in the summer at Easton Mau- 
dit, Northamptonshire, on a visit to the Reverend Dr. 
Percy, now Bishop of Dromore. Whatever dissatisfac- 
tion he felt at what he considered as a slow progress in 
intellectual improvement, we find that his heart was 
tender, and his affections warm, as appears from the 
following very kind letter : 





" I did not hear of your sickness till I heard like- 
wise of your recovery, and therefore escape that part of 
your pain, which every man must feel, to whom you 
are known as you are known to me. 

" Having had no particular account of your disorder, 
I know not in what state it has left von. If the amuse- 
ment of my company can exhilarate the languor of a 
slow recovery, I will not delay a day to come to you ; 
for 1 know not how 1 can so effectually promote my 
own pleasure as by pleasing you, or my own inter- 
est as by preserving you, in whom, if I should lose 
you, I should lose almost the only man whom I call a 



1765. " p r ay, let me hear of you from yourself, or from 
2^ dear Miss Reynolds. 7 Make my compliments to Mr. 
56. Mudge. I am, dear Sir, 

u Your most affectionate 

" And most humble servant, 
" ^% Re V^ Percy \ at Eas r " Sam. Johnson." 

Maudit, Northamptonshire, (by- 
Castle Ashby,) Aug. 19,1764." 

Early in the year 1765 he paid a short visit to the 
University of Cambridge, with his friend Mr. Beau- 
clerk. There is a lively picturesque account of his be- 
haviour on this visit, in the Gentleman's Magazine for 
March 178o, being an extract of a letter from the late 
Dr. John Sharp. The two following sentences are very 
characteristical : " He drank his large potations of tea 
with me, interrupted by many an indignant contradic- 
tion, and many a noble sentiment." " Several per- 
sons got into his company the last evening at Trinity, 
where, about twelve, he began to be very great ; strip- 
ped poor Mrs. Macaulay to the very skin, then gave 
her for his toast, and drank her in two bumpers." 

The strictness of his self-examination, and scrupulous 
Christian humility, appear in his pious meditation on 
Easter-day this year. — " 1 purpose again to partake of 
the blessed sacrament ; yet when I consider how vainly 
I have hitherto resolved at this annual commemoration 
of my Saviour's death, to regulate my life by his laws, 
I am almost afraid to renew my resolutions." 

The concluding words are very remarkable, and 
shew that he laboured under a severe depression of 
spirits. " Since the last Easter I have reformed no evil 
habit ; my time has been unprofitably spent, and seems 
as a dream that has left nothing behind. My memory 
grows confused, and I know not how the days pass over 
me. Good Lord, deliver me !" 8 

No man was more gratefully sensible of any kind- 
ness done to him than Johnson. There is a little cir- 

' Sir Joshua's sister, for whom Johnson had a particular affection, and to whom 
he wrote many letters which I have seen, and which I am sorry her too nice deli- 
cacy will not permit to be published. 

3 Prayers and Meditations, p. 61, 


cumstance in his diary this year, which shews him in a 1765. 
very amiable light. yEtaT 

" July 2. 1 paid Mr. Simpson ten guineas, which he 5 6. " 
had formerly lent me in my necessity, and for which 
Tetty expressed her gratitude." 

" July 8. 1 lent Mr. Simpson ten guineas more." 

Here he had a pleasing opportunity of doing the 
same kindness to an old friend, which he had formerly 
received from him. Indeed his liberality as to money 
was very remarkable. The next article in his diary is, 
" July 16th, I received seventy-five pounds. Lent 
Mr. Davies twenty-five." 

Trinity College, Dublin, at this time surprised John- 
son with a spontaneous compliment of the highest aca- 
demical honours, by creating him Doctor of Laws. The 
diploma, which is in my possession, is as follows : 

" OMNIBUS ad quos prcesentes literce pervenerinf, 
salutem. Nos Prwpositus et Socii Senior es Collegii 
sacrosanctce et individuce Trinitatis Regince Elizabethan 
juxta Dublin, testamur, Samueli Johnson, Armigero, ob 
egregiam scriptorum elegantiam et utilitatem, gratiam 
concessam fuisse pro gradu DoctoratHs in utroque Jure, 
octavo die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo 
sexagesimo-quinto. In cujus rei testimonium sitigulorum 
mantis et sigillum quo in hisce utimur apposuimus ; vi- 
cesimo tcrtio die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septin- 
gentesimo sexagesimo-quinto. 

Gul.Clement. Fran. Andrews. R.Murray. 

Tho. Wilson. Prceps. Rob. Law. 

Tho. Leland. Mich. Kearney." 

This unsolicited mark of distinction, conferred on so 
great a literary character, did much honour to the judge- 
ment and liberal spirit of that learned body. Johnson 
acknowledged the favour in a letter to Dr. Leland, one 
of their number ; but 1 have not been able to obtain a 
copy of it. 9 

9 [Since the publication of the edition in 1804, a copy of this letter has been 
obligingly communicated to me by John .Leland, Esq. son to the learned Historian, 
to who» it is addressed ; 


1765. He appears this year to have been seized with a tem- 
JtJ^ porary fit of ambition, for he had thoughts both of 
.56. studying law, and of engaging in politicks. His "Prayer 
before the Study of Law" is truly admirable : 

" Sep. 26, 176.5. 

" Almighty God, the giver of wisdom, without 
whose help resolutions are vain, without whose bless- 
ing study is ineffectual ; enable me, if it be thy will, to 
attain such knowledge as may qualify me to direct the 
doubtful, and instruct the ignorant ; to prevent wrongs 
and terminate contentions ; and grant that I may use 
that knowledge which I shall attain, to thy glory and 
mv own salvation, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen." 1 

His prayer in the view of becoming a politician is 

entitled, " Engaging in Politicks with H n," no 

doubt, his friend, the Right Honourable William Ger- 
ard Hamilton, for whom, during a long acquaintance, 
he had a great esteem, and to whose conversation he 
once paid this high compliment : " I am very unwilling 
to be left alone, Sir, and therefore I go with my company 
down the first pair of stairs, in some hopes that they 
may, perhaps, return again ; I go with you, Sir, as far 
as the street-door." In what particular department he 
intended to engage, does not appear, nor can Mr. Ham- 
ilton explain. His prayer is in general terms: "En- 
lighten my understanding with knowledge of right, and 

" to the rev. dr. leland. 
« Sir, 

" Among the names subscribed to the degree which I have had the honour 
of receiving from the university of Dublin, I find none of which I have any per- 
sonal knowledge but those of Dr. Andrews and yourself. 

" Men can be estimated by those who know them not, only as they are repre- 
sented by those who know them ; and therefore I flatter myself that I owe much 
of the pleasure which this distinction gives me, to your concurrence with Dr. An- 
drews in recommending me to the learned society. 

" Having desired the Provost to return my general thanks to the University, I 
beg that you, Sir, will accept my particular and immediate acknowledgments. 
" I am, Sir, 
" Your most obedient and most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 
" Johnson's-court, Fleet street, London, Oct. 17, 1765." 

I have not been able to recover the letter which Johnson wrote to Dr. Andrews 
on this occasion. M.] 

1 Prajj^rs and Meditations, p. 66. 

DR. JOHNSON. 38 3 

govern my will by thy laws, that no deceit may mislead 1765. 
me, nor temptation corrupt me ; that 1 may always en- j?tat! 
deavour to do good, and hinder evil." 1 There is noth- 56. 
ing upon the subject in his diary. 

This year was distinguished by his being introduced 
into the family of .Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent 
brewers in England, and member of Parliament for the 
borough of Southwark. Foreigners are not a little 
amazed when they hear of brewers, distillers, and men 
in similar departments of trade, held forth as persons of 
considerable consequence. In this great commercial 
country it is natural that a situation which produces 
much wealth should be considered as very respectable ; 
and, no doubt, honest industry is entitled to esteem. 
But, perhaps, the too rapid advances of men of low ex- 
traction tends to lessen the value of that distinction by 
birth and gentility, which has ever been found benefi- 
cial to the grand scheme of subordination. Johnson 
used to give this account of the rise of Mr. Thrale's fa- 
ther : " He worked at six shillings a week for twenty 
years in the great brewery, which afterwards was his 
own. The proprietor of it 3 had an only daughter, who 
was married to a nobleman. It was not fit that a peer 
should continue the business. On the old man's death, 
therefore, the brewery was to be sold. To find a pur- 
chaser for so large a property was a difficult matter ; 
and, after some time, it was suggested, that it would be 
adviseable to treat with Thrale, a sensible, active, hon- 
est man, who had been employed in the house, and to 
transfer the whole to him for thirty thousand pounds, 
security being taken upon the property. This was ac- 

2 Prayers and Meditations, p. 67. 

[The predecessor of old Thrale was Edmund Halsey, Esq. the nobleman who 
married his daughter, was Lord Cobham, great uncle of the Marquis of Bucking- 
ham. But I believe, Dr. Johnson was mistaken in assigning so very low an origin 
to Mr. Thrale. The Clerk of St. Alban's, a very aged man, told me, that he, (the 
elder Thrale,) married a sister of Mr. Halsey. It is at least certain that the family 
of Thrale was of some consideration in that town : in the abbey church is a hand- 
some monument to the memory of Mr. John Thrale, late of London, Merchant, 
who died in 1704, aged 54, Margaret, his wife, and three of their children who 
died young between the years 1C76 and 1 690. The arms upon this monument are, 
paly of eight, gules and or, impaling, ermine, on a chief indented vert, three wolves 
(or gryphons') heads, or, couped at the neck : — Crest on a ducal coronet, a tree, 
vert. J B.l 


1765. cordingly settled. In eleven years Thrale paid the pur- 
2>J^r chase money. He acquired a large fortune, and lived 
56, * to be a member of Parliament for Southwark.* But 
what was the most remarkable was the liberality with 
which he used his riches. He gave his son and daugh- 
ters the best education. The esteem which his good 
conduct procured him from the nobleman who had 
married his master's daughter, made him be treated with 
much attention ; and his son, both at schooled at the 
University of Oxford, associated with young m&n of the 
first rank. His allowance from his father, aftfc^-he left 

college, was splendid ; not less than a ttousand a 
year. This, in a man who had risen as old Hi rale did, 
was a very extraordinary instance of generosity. * He 
used to say, ' If this young dog does not find so much 
after I am gone as he expects, let hitn remenjfcier- that 
he has had a great deal in my own time." «a , ' -* 

The son, though in affluent circumstances, ka^#good 
sense enough to carry on his father's trade, which was 
of such extent, that 1 remember he once tol(£irfei he 
would not quit it for an annuity of ten thousand a year ; 
" Not, (said he,) that 1 get ten thousand a ye3.1v by it, 
but it is an estate to a family." Having left daughters 
only, the property was sold for the immense suni of one 
hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds ; a rgagnifi- 
cent proof of what may be done by fair trade in a long 
period of time. 

There may be some who think that a new system of 
gentility 5 might be established, upon principles totally 
different from what have hitherto prevailed. Our pres- 
ent heraldry, it may be said, is suited to the barbarous 
times in which it had its origin. It is chiefly founded 

4 [In 1733 he served the office of High Sheriff for Surry; and died April 9, 
1758. A. C] 

s Mrs. Burney informs me that she heard Dr. Johnson say, " An English Mer- 
chant is a new species of Gentleman." He, perhaps, had in his mind the follow- 
ing ingenious passage in " The Conscious Lovers," act iv. scene ii. where Mr. Sea- 
land thus addresses Sir John Bevil : " Give me leave to say, that we merchants are 
a species of gentry that have grown into the world this last century, and are as 
honourable, and almost as useful as you landed-folks, that have always thought 
yourselves so much above us ; for your trading forsooth is extended no farther 
than a load of hay, or a fat ox. — You are pleasant people indeed ! because you 
are generally bred up to be lazv, therefore, I warrant you, industry is dishonoura- 


upon ferocious merit, upon military excellence. Why, 1 765. 
in civilized times, we maybe asked, should there not be jJTj^ 
rank and honours, upon principles, which, independent 56. 
of long custom, are certainly not less worthy, and which, 
when once allowed to be connected with elevation and 
precedency, would obtain the same dignity in our imag- 
ination ? Why should not the knowledge, the skill, the 
expertness, the assiduity, and the spirited hazards of 
trade and commerce, when crowned with success, be 
entitled to give those flattering distinctions by which 
mankind are so universally captivated ? 

Such are the specious, but false, arguments for a 
proposition which always will find numerous advocates, 
in a nation where men are every day starting up from 
obscurity to wealth. To refute them is needless. The 
general sense of mankind cries out, with irresistible 
force, " Un gentilhomme eat toujours gentilhomme" 

Mr. Thrale had married Miss Hesther Lynch Salis- 
bury, of good Welsh extraction, a lady of lively talents, 
improved by education. That Johnson's introduction 
into Mr. Thrale's family, which contributed so much 
to the happiness of his life, was owing to her desire for 
his conversation, is a very probable and the general sup- 
position : but it is not the truth. Mr. Murphy, who 
was intimate with Mr. Thrale, having spoken very high- 
ly of Dr. Johnson, he was requested to make them ac- 
quainted. This being mentioned to Johnson, he ac- 
cepted of an invitation to dinner at Thrale's, and was so 
much pleased with his reception, both by Mr. and Mrs. 
Thrale, and they so much pleased with him, that his in- 
vitations to their house were more and more frequent, 
till at last he became one of the family, and an apart- 
ment was appropriated to him, both in their house at 
Southwark and in their villa at Streatham. 

Johnson had a very sincere esteem for Mr. Thrale, 
as a man of excellent principles, a good scholar, well 
skilled in trade, of a sound understanding, and of man- 
ners such as presented the character of a plain inde- 
pendent English 'Squire. As this family will frequent- 
ly be mentioned in the course of the following pages, 
and as a false notion has prevailed that Mr. Thrale was 

vol. I- 


1765. inferiour, and in some degree insignificant, compared 
EtaT w * tn ^ rs - r ^ nra l e » ]t ma y De proper to give a true state 
56. ' of the case from the authority of Johnson himself in his 
own words. 

" I know no man, (said he,) who is more master of his 
wife and family than Thrale. If he but holds up a fin- 
ger, he is obeyed. It is a great mistake to suppose that 
she is above him in literary attainments. She is more 
flippant ; but he has ten times her learning : he is a 
regular scholar ; but her learning is that of a school-bov 
in one of the lower forms." My readers may natural- 
ly wish for some representation of the figures of this 
couple. Mr. Thrale was tall, well proportioned, and 
stately. As for Madam, or my Mistress, by which ep- 
ithets Johnson used to mention Mrs. Thrale, she was 
short, plump, and brisk. She has herself given us a 
lively view of the idea which Johnson had other per- 
son, on her appearing before him in a dark-coloured 
gown : " You little creatures should never wear those 
sort of clothes, however ; they are unsuitable in every 
way. What ! have not all insects gay colours V ,€ Mr. 
Thrale gave his wife a liberal indulgence, both in the 
choice of their company, and in the mode of entertain- 
ing them. He understood ami valued Johnson, with- 
out remission, from their first acquaintance to the day 
of his death. Mrs. Thrale was enchanted with John- 
son's conversation for its own sake, and had also a 
very allowable vanity in appearing to be honoured with 
the attention of so celebrated a man. 

Nothing could be more fortunate for Johnson than 
this connection. He had at Mr. Thrale's all the com- 
forts and even luxuries of life ; his melancholy was di- 
verted, and his irregular habits lessened by association 
with an agreeable and well-ordered family. He was 
treated with the utmost respect, and even affection. 
The vivacity of Mrs. Thrale's literary talk roused him 
to cheerfulness and exertion, even when they were 
alone. But. this was not often the case ; for he found 
here a constant succession of what gave him the high- 

6 Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes, p. 279, 

DR. JOHNSON. 3-87 

est enjoyment, the society of the learned, the witty, l 765. 
and the eminent in even way ; who were assembled in ^T£ 
numerous companies, called Forth his wonderful powers, sg. 
and gratified him with admiration, to which no man 
could he insensible. 

In the October of this year 7 he at length gave to the 
world his edition of Shakspeare, which, if it had no other 
merit but that of producing his Preface, in which the 
excellencies and defects of that immortal hard are dis- 
played with a masterly hand, the nation would have 
had no reason to complain. A blind indiscriminate 
admiration of Shakspeare had exposed the British na- 
tion to the ridicule of foreigners. Johnson, by candidh 
admitting the faults of his poet, had the more credit in 
bestowing on him deserved and indisputable praise ; 
and doubtless none of all his panegyrists have done him 
half so much honour. Their praise was like that of a 
counsel, upon his own side of the cause : Johnson's was 
like the grave, well considered, and impartial opinion of 
the judge, which falls from his lips with weight, and is 
received with reverence. What he did as a commen- 
tator has no small share of merit, though his researches 
were not so ample, and Hs investigations so acute as 
they might have been, M llich we now certainly know 
from the labours of ocher able and ingenious criticks 
who have followed him, lie has enriched his edition 
with a concise account of each play, and of its charac- 
teristick excellence, iviany of his notes have illustrated 
obscurities in the text, and placed passages eminent for 
beauty in a more conspicuous light ; and he has in gen- 
eral, exhibited such a mode of annotation, as may be 
beneficial to all subsequent editors. 

[From a letter written by Dr. Johnson to Dr. Joseph Warton, the clay after 
the publication of his Shakspeare, Oct. 9, 1765, (See Wool's Memoirs of Dr. War- 
ton, 4to. 1806) it appears that Johnson spent some time with that gentleman at 
Winchester in this year. In a letter written by Dr. Warton to Mr. Thomas War- 
ton, not long afterwards (January 28, 1766) is a paragraph, which may throw 
some light on various passages in Dr. Warton's edition of Pope, relative to John- 
son : — " I only dined with Johnson, who seemed cold and indifferent, and scarce 
said any thing to me : perhaps he has heard what I said of his Shakspeare, or rath- 
er was offended at what I wrote to him : — as he pleases." The letter here alluded 
to, it is believed, has not been preserved : at least, it does not appear in the collec- 
tion above referred to. M.] 


1765. His Shakspeare was virulently attacked by Mr. Wil- 
JT^ Ham Kenrick, who obtained the degree of LL.D. from a 
56. ' Scotch University, and wrote for the booksellers in a 
great variety of branches. Though he certainly was 
not without considerable merit, he wrote with so little 
regard to decency, and principles, and decorum, and in 
so hasty a manner, that his reputation was neither ex- 
tensive nor lasting. I remember one evening, when 
some of his works were mentioned, Dr. Goldsmith said, 
he had never heard of them ; upon which Dr. Johnson 
observed, " Sir, he is one of the many who have made 
themselves publick, without making themselves known" 
A young student of Oxford, of the name of Barclay, 
wrote an answer to Kenrick's review of Johnson's Shak- 
speare. Johnson was at first angry that Kenrick's attack 
should have the credit of an answer. But afterwards, 
considering the young man's good intention, he kindly 
noticed him, and probably would have done more, had 
not the young man died. 

In his Preface to Shakspeare, Johnson treated Vol- 
taire very contemptuously, observing, upon some of his 
remarks, {c These are the petty cavils of petty minds. 
Voltaire, in revenge, made an attack upon Johnson, in 
one of his numerous literary sallies which I remember 
to have read ; but there being no general index to his 
voluminous works, have searched in vain, and therefore 
cannot quote it. 

Voltaire was an antagonist with whom I thought 
Johnson should not disdain to contend. I pressed him 
to answer. He said, he perhaps might ; but he never 

Mr. Burney having occasion to write to Johnson for 
some receipts for subscriptions to his Shakspeare, which 
Johnson had omitted to deliver when the money was 
paid, he availed himself of that opportunity of thank- 
ing Johnson for the great pleasure which he had re- 
ceived from the perusal of his Preface to Shakspeare ; 
which, although it excited much clamour against him 
at first, is now justly ranked among the most excellent 
of his writings. To this letter Johnson returned the 
following answer- 





"SIR, 56. 

" I am sorry that your kindness to me has brought 
upon you so much trouble, though you have taken care 
to abate that sorrow, by the pleasure which I receive 
from your approbation. 1 defend my criticism in the 
same manner with 3011. We must confess the faults 
of our favourite, to gain credit to our praise of his 
excellencies. He that claims, either in himself or for 
another, the honours of perfection, will surely injure 
the reputation which he designs to assist. 

" Be pleased to make my compliments to your fam- 
ily. I am, Sir, 

" Your most obliged 

" And most humble servant, 
" Oct. 16, 1760. " Sam. Johnson." 

From one of his Journals I transcribed what follows 

" At church, Oct. — 65. 

" To avoid all singularity ; Bonaventura.* 

" To come in before service, and compose my mind 
by meditation, or by reading some portions of scripture. 

" If I can hear the sermon, to attend it, unless atten- 
tion be more troublesome than useful. 

" To consider the act of prayer as a reposal of myself 
upon God, and a resignation of all into his holy hand." 7 

In 176'4 and 1760 it should seem that Dr. Johnson 
was so busily employed with his edition of Shakspeare, 
as to have had little leisure for any other literary exer- 
tion, or, indeed, even for private correspondence. He 
did not favour me with a single letter for more than 
two years, for which it will appear that he afterwards 

He was, however, at all times ready to give assist- 
ance to his friends, and others, in revising their works, 
and in writing for them, or greatly improving, their 
Dedications. In that courtly species of composition no 

8 He was probably proposing to himself the mode) of this excellent person, whc 
5>r hi? piety was named tkt Serapkuk Doctor. 


17C5. man excelled Dr. Johnson. Though the loftiness of 
32^ his mind prevented him from ever dedicating in his 
56. own person, he wrote a very great number of Dedica- 
tions for others. Some of these, the persons who were 
favoured with them, are unwilling should be mention- 
ed, from a too anxious apprehension, as I think, that 
they might be suspected of having received larger as- 
sistance ; and some, after all the diligence 1 have be- 
stowed, have escaped my enquiries. He told me, a 
great many years ago, " he believed he had dedicated 
to all the Roval Family round ;" and it was indifferent 
to him what was the subject of the work dedicated, 
provided it were innocent. He once dedicated some 
Musick for the German Flute to Edward, Duke of 
York. In writing Dedications for others, he considered 
himself as by no means speaking his own sentiments. 

Notwithstanding his long silence, I never omitted to 
write to him, when I had any thing worthy of communi- 
cating. I generally kept copies of my letters to him, 
that I might have a full view of our correspondence, 
and never be at a loss to understand any reference in 
his letters. He kept the greater part of mine very 
carefully ; and a short time before his death was atten- 
tive enough to seal them up in bundles, and order 
them to be delivered to me, which was accordingly 
done. Amongst them I found one, of which 1 had not 
made a copy, and which I own I read with pleasure at 
the distance of almost twenty years. It is dated No- 
vember, 176.3. at the palace of Pascal Paoli, in Corte, 
the capital of Corsica, and is full of generous enthusi- 
asm. After giving a sketch of what I had seen and 
heard in that island, it proceeded thus : " I dare to call 
this a spirited tour. 1 dare to challenge your approba- 

This letter produced the following answer, which I 
found on my arrival at Paris. 

A Mr. Mr. Boswell, chez Mr. Waters, Bauquier, a 

" dear sir, 

" Apologies are seldom of any use. W e will de- 
lay till your arrival the reasons, good or bad. which 


have made me such a sparing- and ungrateful corns- 1765. 
pondent. Be assured, for the present, that nothing has ^j^ 
lessened either the esteem or love with which I dis- 5(>. 
missed you at Harwich. Both have been increased by 
all that i have been told of you bv yourself or others ; 
and when you return, you will return to an unaltered, 
and, 1 hope, unalterable friend. 

" All that you have to fear from me is the vexation 
of disappointing me. No man loves to frustrate ex- 
pectations which have been formed in his favour; and 
the pleasure which I promise myself from your jour- 
nals and remarks is so great, that perhaps no degree of 
attention or discernment will be sufficient to afford it. 

" Come home, however, and take your chance. I 
long to see you, and to hear you ; and hope that we 
shall not be so long separated again. Come home, and 
expect such welcome as is due to him, whom a wise 
and noble curiosity has led, where perhaps no native 
of this country ever was before. 

" 1 have no news to tell you that can deserve your 
notice ; nor would I willingly lessen the pleasure that 
any novelty may give you at your return. I am afraid 
we shall find it difficult to keep among us a mind which 
has been so lono- feasted with variety. But let us try 
what esteem and kindness can effect. 

" As your father's liberality has indulged you with 
so long a ramble, I doubt not but you will think his 
sickness, or even his desire to see you, a sufficient rea- 
son for hasten ine* your return. The lonsrer we live, 
and the more we think, the higher value we learn to 
put on the friendship and tenderness of parents and of 
friends. Parents we can have but once ; and he prom- 
ises himself too much, who enters life with the expect- 
ation of finding many friends. Upon some motive, 1 
hope, that you will be here soon ; and am willing to 
think that it will be an inducement to your return, that 
it is sincerely desired by, dear Sir, 

" Your affectionate humble servant, 

■ Sam. Johnson 
"Johnson's Court* Fleet-street, Jem. 14. \~<'>0." 

392 THE LIFE 0* 

1766. I returned to London in February, and found Dr. 
iEt-T J° nnson m a g°°d house in Johnson's-court, Fleet- 
3 7 # " street, in which he had accommodated Miss Williams 
with an apartment on the ground floor, while Mr. Lev- 
et occupied his post in the garret : his faithful Francis 
was still attending upon him. He received me with 
much kindness. The fragments of our first conversa- 
tion, which I have preserved, are these : 1 told him that 
Voltaire, in a conversation with me, had distinguished 
Pope and Dryden thus : — " Pope drives a handsome 
chariot, with a couple of neat trim nags ; Dryden a 
coach, and six stately horses." Johnson. "Why, Sir, 
the truth is, they both drive coaches and six ; but Dry- 
den's horses are either galloping or stumbling : Pope's 
go at a steady even trot." 1 He said of Goldsmith's 
" Traveller," which had been published in my absence, 
" There has not been so fine a poem since Pope's time." 
And here it is proper to settle, with authentick pre- 
cision, what has long floated in publick report, as to 
Johnson's being himself the authour of a considerable 
part of that poem. Much, no doubt, both of the sen- 
timents and expression, were derived from conversation 
with him ; and it was certainly submitted to his friendly 
revision : but in the year 17S3, he at my request, mark- 
ed with a pencil the lines which he had furnished, 
which are only line 420th. 

" To stop too fearful, and too faint to go;" 

and the concluding ten lines, except the last couplet 
but one, which I distinguish by the Italick character : 

" How small of all that human hearts endure, 
" That part which kings or laws can cause or cure. 
" Still to ourselves in every place consign'd, 
" Our own felicity we make or find ; 

! It is remarkable that Mr.' Gray has employed somewhat the same image to 
characterise Dryden. He, indeed, furnishes his car with but two horses ; but they 
are of " ethereal race :" 

" Behold where Dryden 's less presumptuous car, 
a Wide o'er the fields of glory bear 
" Two coursers of ethereal race, 

' pecks in thunder rloath'd- and long resounding pace." 

Ode on the Progress cf Poes\ 


" With secret course, which no loud storms annoy, 17<K>. 
" Glides the smooth current of domestick joy : iEtat. 

ik The lifted axe, the agonizing wheel, 57. 

" Luke's iron crown, and Damien's bed of steel, 
" To men remote from power, but rarely known, 
" Leave reason, faith, and conscience, all our own." 

He added, " These are all of which I can be sure." 
They bear a small proportion to the whole, which con- 
sists" of four hundred and thirty-eight verses. Gold- 
smith, in the couplet which he inserted, mentions 
Luke as a person well known, and superficial readers 
have passed it over quite smoothly ; while those of 
more attention have been as much perplexed by Luke, 
as by Li/diat, in " The Vanity of Human Wishes." 
The truth is, that Goldsmith himself was in a mistake. 
" In the Respublica Hungarica," there is an account of 
a desperate rebellion in the year 1514, headed by two 
brothers, of the name of Zeck, George and Luke. 
When it was quelled, George, not Luke, was punished 
by his head being encircled with a red hot iron crown : 
" corona candescente J erred coronatur" The same se- 
verity of torture was exercised on the Earl of Athol, 
one of the murderers of King James I. of Scotland. 2 

Dr. Johnson at the same time favoured me by mark- 
ing the lines which he furnished to Goldsmith's " De- 
serted Village," which are only the last four : 

; ' That trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay, 
" As ocean sweeps the laboured mole away '■ 
" While self-dependent power can time defy, 
" As rocks resist the billows and the sky." 

Talking of education, " People have now a-days, 
(said he,) got a strange opinion that every thing should 
be taught bv lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures 
can do so much good as reading the books from which 
the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can be 
best taught by lectures, except where experiments are 

2 [On the iron crown, see Mr. Steevens's note 7, on Act iv. Sc. i. of Richard III. 
It seems to be alluded to in Macbeth, Act iv. Sc. i. " Thy crown does sear," &c. 
See also Gough's Camden, vol. hi. p. 396. I. B.] 

vol. I. 50 


1766. to be shewn. You mav teach chvmistry bv lectures. 

j£ lat — You might teach making of shoes by lectures !" 
57. At night 1 supped with him at the Mitre Tavern, 
that we might renew our social intimacy at the original 
place of meeting. But there was now a considerable 
difference in his way of living. Having had an illness, 
in which he was advised to leave off wine, he had, from 
that period, continued to abstain from it, and drank 
only water, or lemonade. 

1 told him that a foreign friend of his, whom I had 
met with abroad, was so wretchedly perverted to infi- 
delity, that he treated the hopes of immortality with 
brutal levity; and said, " As man dies like a dog", let 
him lie like a dog." Johnson. " //he dies like a dog, 
let him lie like a doo:." I added, that this man said to 
me, " I hate mankind, for i think myself one of the 
best of them, and 1 know how bad I am." Johnson. 
" Sir, he must be very singular in his opinion, if he 
thinks himself one of the best of men ; for none of his 
friends think him so." — He said, " No honest man 
could be a Deist ; for no man could be so after a fair 
examination of the proofs of Christianity." I named 
Hume. Johnson. " No, wSir; Hume owned to a cler- 
gyman in the bishoprick of Durham, that he had never 
read the New Testament with attention." — I mentioned 
Hume's notion, that all who are happy are equally 
happy ; a little miss with a new gown at a dancing- 
school ball, a General at the head of a victorious army, 
and an orator, after having made an eloquent speech in 
a great assembly. Johnson. "Sir, that ail who are 
happy, are equally happy, is not true. A peasant and 
a philosopher may be equally satisfied, but not equally 
happy. Happiness consists in the multiplicity of agree- 
able consciousness. A peasant has not capacity for 
having equal happiness with a philosopher." 1 remem- 
ber this very question very happily illustrated in oppo- 
sition to Hume, bv the Reverend Mr. Robert Brown, 
at Utrecht. " A small drinking-glass and a large one, 
(said he,) may be equally full ; but the large one holds 
more than the small." 3 

s [Bishop Hall, in discussing this subject, has the same image : " Yet so conceive 


Or. Johnson was very kind this evening, and said to 17^6. 
me, " You have now lived five-and-twenty years, and ^ x ~^ 
you have employed them well." "Alas, Sir, (said 1,) 57. 
i fear not. Do 1 know history ' Do 1 know mathe- 
maticks ! Do I know law?" Johnson. "Why, Sir, 
though v<>u may know no science so well as to be able 
to teach it, and no profession so well as to be able to fol- 
low it, your general mass of knowledge of books and 
men renders you very capable to make yourself master 
of any science, or fit yourself for any profession." I 
mentioned that a gay friend had advised me against be- 
ing a lawyer, because I should be excelled by plodding 
block-heads. Johnson. " Why, Sir, in the formulary 
and statutory part of law, a plodding block-head may 
excel ; but in the ingenious and rational part of it a 
plodding block-head can never excel." 

1 talked of the mode adopted by some to rise in the 
world, by courting great men, and asked him whether 
he had ever submitted to it. Johnson. " Why, Sir, I 
never was near enough to great men, to court them. 
You may be prudently attached to great men, and yet 
independent. You are not to do what you think 
wrong ; and, Sir, you are to calculate, and not pay too 
dear for what you get. You must not give a shilling's 
worth of court for sixpence worth of good. But if you 
can get a shilling's worth of good for sixpence worth of 
court, you are a fool if you do not pay court." 

He said, " If convents should be allowed at all, they 
should only be retreats for persons unable to serve the 
publick, or who have served it. It is our first duty to 
serve society ; and, after we have done that, we may 
attend wholly to the salvation of our own souls. A 
youthful passion for abstracted devotion should not be 

I introduced the subject of second sight, and other 
mysterious manifestations ; the fulfilment of which, I 
suggested, might happen by chance. Johnson. "Yes, 
Sir, but they have happened so often, that mankind 
have agreed to think them not fortuitous." 

of these heavenly degrees, that the least is glorious. So do these vessels differ, that all 
are full" Epistles, Dec. iii. cp. 6. " Of the different degrees of heavenly glory," 

&c. ' M.] 


1766. I talked to him a great deal of what I had seen in 
fifc^ Corsica, and of my intention to publish an account of 
57. it. He encouraged me by saying, " You cannot go to 
the bottom of the subject ; but all that you tell us will 
be new to us. Give us as many anecdotes as you can." 
Our next meeting- at the Mitre was on Saturday the 
loth of February, when 1 presented to him my old and 
most intimate friend, the Reverend Mr. Temple, then 
of Cambridge. 1 having mentioned that I had passed 
some time with Rousseau in his wild retreat, and having 
quoted some remark made by Mr. Wilkes, with whom 
I had spent many pleasant hours in Italy, Johnson said, 
(sarcastically,) " It seems, Sir, you have kept very good 
company abroad, Rousseau and Wilkes !" Thinking it 
enough to defend one at a time, I said nothing as to my 
gay friend, but answered with a smile, " My dear Sir, 
you don't call Rousseau bad company. Do you really 
think him a bad man V Johnson. " Sir, if you are talk- 
ing jestingly of this, I don't talk with you. If you 
mean to be serious, I think him one of the worst of 
men ; a rascal, who ought to be hunted out of society, 
as he has been. Three or four nations have expelled 
him : and it is a shame that he is protected in this 
country." Boswell. " I don't deny, Sir, but that his 
novel may, perhaps, do harm ; but I cannot think his 
intention was bad." Johnson. " Sir, that will not 
do. We cannot prove any man's intention to be 
bad. You may shoot a man through the head, and say 
you intended to miss him ; but the Judge will order 
you to be hanged. An alleged want of intention, when 
evil is committed, will not be allowed in a court of jus- 
tice. Rousseau, Sir, is a very bad man. I would soon- 
er sign a sentence for his transportation, than that of 
any felon who has gone from the Old Bailey, these 
many years. Y r es, 1 should like to have him work in 
the plantations." Boswell. '* Sir, do you think him 
as bad a man as Voltaire ?" Johnson. " Why, Sir, it 
is difficult to settle the proportion of iniquity between 

This violence seemed very strange to me, who had 
read many of Rousseau's animated writings with great 


pleasure, and even edification ; had been much pleased 1766. 
with his society, and was just come from the Continent, jg t ^ 
where he was very generally admired. Nor can 1 yet 57. ' 
allow that he deserves the very severe censure which 
Johnson pronounced upon him. His absurd preference 
of savage to civilised life, and other singularities, are 
proofs rather of a defect in his understanding, than of 
any depravity in his heart. And notwithstanding the 
unfavourable opinion which many worthy men have ex- 
pressed of his " Profession de Foi du Vic aire Savoyard'* 
I cannot help admiring it as the performance of a man 
full of sincere reverential submission to Divine Mvste- 
ry, though beset with perplexing doubts : a state of 
mind to be viewed with pity rather than with anger. 

On his favourite subject of subordination, Johnson 
said, " So far is it from being true that men are natural- 
ly equal, that no two people can be half an hour togeth- 
er, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the 

1 mentioned the advice given us by philosophers, to 
console ourselves, when distressed or embarrassed, by 
thinking of those who are in a worse situation than our- 
selves. This, 1 observed, could not apply to all, for 
there must be some who have nobody worse than they 
are. Johnson. " Why, to be sure, Sir, there are ; but 
they don't know it. There is no being so poor and so 
contemptible, who does not think there is somebody 
still poorer, and. still more contemptible." 

As my stay in London at this time was very short, I 
had not many opportunities of being with Dr. Johnson ; 
but I felt my veneration for him in no degree lessened, 
by my having seen mnltorum hominum mores et urbes. 
On the contrary, by having it in my power to compare 
him with many of the most celebrated persons of other 
countries, my admiration of his extraordinary mind was 
increased and confirmed. 

The roughness, indeed, which sometimes appeared 
in his manners, was more striking to me now, from my 
having been accustomed to the studied smooth comply- 
ing habits of the Continent ; and i clearly recognised 
m him, not without respect for his honest conscientious 


1766. zeal, the same indignant and sarcastical mode of treat- 

vEtaT m § ever y attempt to unhinge or weaken good princi- 

57. ' P ,es - 

One evening, when a young gentleman teazed him 

with an account of the infidelity of his servant, who, he 
said, would not believe the scriptures, because he could 
not read them in the original tongues, and be sure that 
they were not invented. " Why, foolish fellow, (said 
Johnson,) has he any better authority for almost every 
thing that he believes?" — Boswell. " Then the vul- 
gar, Sir, never can know they are right, but must sub- 
mit themselves to the learned." — Johnson. " To be 
sure, Sir. The vulgar are the children of the State, and 
must be taught like children." — Boswell. " Then, Sir, 
a poor Turk must be a Mahometan, just as a poor Eng- 
lishman must be a Christian \" — Johnson. " Why, 
yes, Sir ; and what then ? This now is such stuff as I 
used to talk to my mother, when 1 first began to think 
myself a clever fellow ; and she ought to have whipt 
me for it." 

Another evening Dr. Goldsmith and I called on him, 
with the hope of prevailing on him to sup with us at 
the Mitre. We found him indisposed, and resolved 
not to go abroad. " Come then, (said Goldsmith,) we 
will not go to the Mitre to-night, since we cannot have 
the big man with us." Johnson then called for a bottle 
of port, of which Goldsmith and 1 partook, while our 
friend, now a water-drinker, sat by us. Goldsmith. 
" 1 think, Mr. Johnson, you don't go near the theatres 
now. You give yourself no more concern about a new 
play, than if you had never had any thing to do with 
the stage." Johnson. " Why, Sir, our tastes greatly 
alter. The lad does not care for the child's rattle, and 
the old man does not care for the young man's whore." 
Goldsmith. " Nay, Sir ; but your Muse was not a 
whore." Johnson. " Sir, 1 do not think she was. 
But as we advance in the journey of life we drop some 
of the things which have pleased us ; whether it be that 
we are fatigued and don't choose to carry so many 
things any farther, or that we find other things which 
we like better." Boswell. "But, Sir, why don't you 


give us something in some other way V y Goldsmith. 1766. 
" Ay, Sir, we have a claim upon you." Johnson. " No, je^' 
Sir, 1 am not obliged to do any more. No man is 57. 
obliged to do as much as he can do. A man is to have 
part of his life to himself. If a soldier lias fought a 
good many campaigns, he is not to be blamed if lie re- 
tires to ease and tranquillity. A physician, who has 
practised long in a great city, may be excused if he re- 
tires to a small town, and takes less practice. Now, 
Sir, the good 1 can do by my conversation bears the 
same proportion to the good I can do by my writings, 
that the practice of a physician, retired to a small town, 
does to his practice in a great city." Bos well. " But I 
wonder, Sir, you have not more pleasure in writing than 
in not writing." Johnson. " Sir, you may wonder." 

He talked of making verses, and observed, " The 
great difficulty is, to know when you have made good 
ones. When composing, 1 have generally had them in 
my mind, perhaps fifty at a time, walking up and down 
in my room ; and then I have written them down, and 
often, from laziness, have written onlv half lines. I 
have written a hundred lines in a day. I remember I 
wrote a hundred lines of ' The \ anitv of Human 
Wishes' in a day. Doctor, (turning to Goldsmith,) I 
am not quite idle ; I made one line t'other day ; but I 
made no more." Goldsmith. " Let us hear it ; we'll 
put a bad one to it." Johnson. " No, Sir ; I have for- 
got it." 

Such specimens of the easy and playful conversa- 
tion of the great Dr. Samuel Johnson are, 1 think, to be 
prized ; as exhibiting the little varieties of a mind so en- 
larged and so powerful when objects of consequence 
required its exertions, and as giving us a minute knowl- 
edge of his character and modes of thinking. 



" What your friends have done, that from your 
departure till now nothing has been heard of you, none 
of us are able to inform the rest ; but as we are all ne- 


1766. glected alike, no one thinks himself entitled to the 
iEtaT privilege of complaint. 

.57. ' " I should have known nothing of you or of Lang- 
ton, from the time that dear Miss Langton left us, 
had not I met Mr. Simpson, of Lincoln, one day in the 
street, bv whom I was informed that Mr. Langton, vour 
Mamma, and yourself, had been all ill, but that you 
were all recovered. 

" That sickness should suspend your correspondence, 
I did not wonder, but hoped that it would be renewed 
at your recovery. 

" Since you will not inform us where you are, or how 
you live, I know not whether you desire to know any 
thing of us. However, I will tell you that the club 
subsists; but we have the loss of Burke's company 
since he has been engaged in publick business, in 
which he has gained more reputation than perhaps any 
man at his [first] appearance ever gained before. He 
made two speeches in the House for repealing the 
Stamp-act, which were publickly commended by Mr. 
Pitt, and have filled the town with wonder. 

" Burke is a great man by nature, and is expected 
soon to attain civil greatness. 1 am grown greater too, 
for I have maintained the newspapers these many 
weeks ; and what is greater still, 1 have risen every 
morning since New-year's day, at about eight : when I 
was up, I have indeed done but little ; yet it is no 
slight advancement to obtain for so many hours more, 
the consciousness of being. 

" I wish you were in my new study ; I am now 
writing the first letter in it. I think it looks very pretty 
about me. 

" Dver* is constant at the club ; Hawkins is re- 
miss ; I am not over diligent, Dr. Nugent, Dr. Gold- 
smith, and Mr. Reynolds, are very constant. Mr. Lye 

4 [Samuel Dyer, Esq. a most learned and ingenious Member of the Literary 
Club, for whose understanding and attainments Dr. Johnson had great respect. 
He died Sept. 14, 1772. A more particular account of this gentleman may be 
found in a Note on the Life of Dryden, p. 1 86, prefixed to the edition of that great 
writer's Prose Works, in four volumes,. 8vo. 1800 : in which his character is vin- 
dicated, and the very unfavourable representation of it, given by Sir John Haw- 
kins in his Life of Johnson, pp. 222 — 232, is minutely examined. M.] 


is printing his Saxon and Gothick Dictionary : all the L766. 
club subscribes. jEtat. 

" You will pay my respects to all my Lincolnshire 57. 

friends. I am, dear Sir, 

" Most affectionately yours, 

" Sam. Johnson." 
"March 9, 1766. Johnson' s-court, Fleet-street " 

*'' TO bennet langton, esq. at langton, near 


" In supposing that I should be more than com- 
monly affected by the death of Peregrine Langton, 5 
you were not mistaken ; he was one of those whom I 
loved at once by instinct and by reason. 1 have seldom 
indulged more hope of any thing than of being able to 
improve our acquaintance to friendship. Many a time 
have I placed myself again at Langton, and imagined 
the pleasure with which I should walk to Partney 6 in 
a summer morning ; but this is no longer possible. We 
must now endeavour to preserve what is left us, — his 
example of piety and ceconomy. I hope you make 
what enquiries you can, and write down what is told 
you. The little things which distinguish domestick 
characters are soon forgotten : if you delay to enquire, 
you will have no information ; if you neglect to write, 
information will be vain. 7 

s Mr. Langton's uncle. 

6 The place of residence of Mr. Peregrine Langton. 

7 Mr. Langton did not disregard this counsel, but wrote the following account, 
which he has been pleased to communicate to me : 

" The circumstances of Mr. Peregrine Langton were the«e. He had an annui- 
ty for life of two hundred pounds per annum. He resided in a village in Lincoln- 
shire : the rent of his house, with two or three small fields, was twenty-eight 
pounds ; the county he lived in was not more than moderately cheap ; his family 
consisted of a sister, who paid him eighteen pounds annually for her board, and a 
niece. The servants were two maids, and two men in livery. His common way 
of living, at his table, was three or four dishes ; the appurtenances to his table, 
were neat and handsome ; he frequently entertained company at dinner, and then 
his table was well served with as many dishes as were usual at the tables of the 
other gentlemen in the neighbourhood. His own appearance, as to clothes, wa3 
genteelly neat and plain. He had always a post-chaise, and kept three horses. 

" Such, with the resources I have mentioned, was his way of living, which he 
did not sufFer to employ his whole income : for he had always 3 sum of money ly- 

VOL. I. 51 


1766. » His art of life certainly deserves to be known and 
jE^ studied. He lived in plenty and elegance upon an in- 


ing by him for any extraordinary expences that might arise. Some money he put 
into the stocks ; at his death, the sum he had there amounted to one hundred and 
fifty pounds. He purchased out of his income his household-furniture and linen, of 
which latter he had a very ample store ; and, as I am assured by those that had 
very good means of knowing, not less than the tenth part of his income was set 
apart for charity : at the time of his death, the sum of twenty-five pounds was 
found, with a direction to be employed in such uses. 

" He had laid down a plan of living proportioned to his income, and did noi. 
practise any extraordinary degree of parsimony, but endeavoured that in his fam- 
ily there should be plenty without waste. As an instance that this was his endeav- 
our, it may be worth while to mention a method he took in regulating a proper 
allowance of malt liquor to be drunk in his family, that there might not be a defi- 
ciency, or any intemperate profusion : On a complaint made that his allowance 
of a hogshead in a month, was not enough for his own family, he ordered the quan- 
tity of a hogshead to be put into bottles, had it locked up from the servants, and 
distributed out, every day, eight quarts, which is the quantity each day at one 
hogshead in a month ; and told his servants, that if that did not suffice, he would 
allow them more ; but, by this method, it appeared at once that the allowance was 
much more than sufficient for his small family ; and this proved a clear conviction, 
that could not be answered, and saved all future dispute. He was, in general, 
very diligently and punctually attended and obeyed by his servants ; he was very 
considerate as to the injunctions he gave, and explained them distinctly ; and, at 
iheir first coming to his service, steadily exacted a close compliance with them, 
without any remission : and the servants finding this to be the case, soon grew 
habitually accustomed to the practice of their business, and then very little further 
attention was necessary. On extraordinary instances of good behaviour, or dili- 
gent service, he was not wanting in particular encouragements and presents above 
their wages : it is remarkable that he would permit their relations to visit them, 
and stay at his house two or three days at a time. 

" The wonder, with most that hear an account of his ceconomy, will be, how he 
was able, with such an income, to do so much, especially when it is considered 
that he paid for every thing he had. He had no land, except the two or three 
-mall fields which I have said he rented ; and, instead of gaining any thing by their 
produce, I have reason to think he lost by them ; however, they furnished him 
with no further assistance towards his housekeeping, than grass for his horses, (not 
hay, for that I know he bought,) and for two cows. Every Monday morning he 
settled his family accounts, and so kept up a constant attention to the confining his 
expences within his income ; and to do it more exactly, compared those expences 
with a computation he had made, how much that income would afford him every 
week and day of the year. One of his ceconomical practices was, as soon as any 
repair was wanting in or about his house, to have it immediately performed. 
When he had money to spare, he chose to lay in a provision of linen or clothes, or 
any other necessaries ; as then, he said, he could afford it, which he might not be 
so 'well able to do when the actual want came ; in consequence of which method, 
he had a considerable supply of necessary articles lying by him, beside what was 

in use. . . 

" But the main particular that seems to have enabled him to do so much with 
his income, was, that he paid for every thing as soon as he had it, except, alone, 
what were current accounts, such as rent for his house and servants' wages ; and 
these V paid al the stated times with the utmost exactness. He gave notice to the 
tradesmen of the neighbouring market-towns, that they should no longer have his 
custom. ; they let anj of his servants have any thing without their paying for it. 
Thus he put it out 01 h ? power to commit those imprudences to which those are li- 
able that defer their payments by using their money some other way than where it 
ought to go. And whatever money he had by him. he knew that it was not de- 
eded elsewhere, but that he might safely employ it as he pleased. 


come which, to many would appear indigent, and to 1766. 
most, scanty. How he lived, therefore, every man has jg^ 
an interest in knowing. His death, I hope, was peace- 57. 
fnl : it was surely happy. 

" 1 wish I had written sooner, lest, writing now, I 
should renew your °:rief ; but 1 would not forbear sav- 
ing what 1 have now said. 

" This loss is, I hope, the only misfortune of a family 
to whom no misfortune at all should happen, if my 
wishes could avert it. Let me know how you all go 
on. Has Mr. Langton got him the little horse that I 
recommended I It would do him good to ride about his 
estate in fine weather. 

" Be pleased to make my compliments to Mrs. Lang- 
ton, and to dear Miss Langton, and Miss Di, and Miss 
Juliet, and to every body else. 

" The club holds very well together. Monday is 
my night. 8 I continue to rise tolerably well, and read 
more than I did. I hope something will yet come on 
it. I am, Sir, 

" Your most affectionate servant, 
" Sam. Johnson." 
" May 10, 1766, Johnson 9 s-court) Fleet-street." 

After I had been some time in Scotland, I mention- 
ed to him in a letter that " On my first return to my na- 
tive country, after some years of absence, I was told of 
a vast number of my acquaintance who were all gone to 
the land of for^etfulness, and 1 found mvself like a man 
stalking over a field of battle, who every moment per- 
ceives some one lying dead." I complained of irreso- 
lution, and mentioned my having made a vow as a se- 
curity for good conduct. I wrote to him again with- 
out being able to move his indolence : nor did 1 hear 
from him till he had received a copy of my inaugural 

" His example was confined, by the sequestered place of his abode, to the obser- 
vation of few, though his prudence and virtue would have made it valuable to all 
who could have known it. — These few particulars, which I knew myself, or have 
obtained from those who lived with him, may afford instruction, and be an incen- 
tive to that wise art of living, which he so successfully practised." 

3 Of his being in the chair of The Literary Club, which at this time met once 
a week in the evening. 

40^ THE LIFE O* 

1766. Exercise, or Thesis in Civil Law, which I published at 
iEtaT m y admission as an Advocate, as is the custom in Scot- 
57. ' land. He then wrote to me as follows : 


" The reception of your Thesis put me in mind ot 
my debt to you. Why did you *************. 9 
I will punish you for it, by telling you that your Latin 
wants correction. 1 In the beginning, Spei alterce, not 
to urge that it should be primes, is not grammatical : 
alterce should be alteri. In the next line you seem to 
use genus absolutely, for what we call family, that is, 
for illustrious extraction, I doubt without authority, 
homines nullius originis, for Nullis orti majoribus, or, 
Nullo loco nati, is, as I am afraid, barbarous. — Ruddiman 
is dead. 

" 1 have now vexed you enough, and will try to 
please you. Your resolution to obey your father I sin- 

The passage omitted alluded to a private transaction. 
■ This censure of my Latin relates to the Dedication, which was as follow s . 



D. D. C. Q. 



cerely approve ; but do not accustom yourself to en- 1766. 
chain your volatility by vows ; they will sometime leave ^^ 
a thorn in your mind, which you will, perhaps, never 57, 
be able to extract or eject. Take this warning ; it is 
of great importance. 

" The study of the law is what you very justly term 
it, copious and generous ;- and in adding your name 
to its professors, you have done exactly what I always 
wished, when 1 wished you best. 1 hope that you will 
continue to pursue it vigorously and constantly. You 
gain, at least, what is no small advantage, security from 
those troublesome and wearisome discontents, which 
are always obtruding themselves upon a mind vacant, 
unemployed, and undetermined. 

" You ought to think it no small inducement to dil- 
igence and perseverance, that they will please your 
father. We all live upon the hope of pleasing some- 
body ; and the pleasure of pleasing ought to be great- 
est, and at last always will be greatest, when our en- 
deavours are exerted in consequence of our duty. 

" Life is not long, and too much of it must not pass 
in idle deliberation how it shall be spent : deliberation, 
which those who begin it by prudence, and continue it 
with subtilty, must, after long expence of thought, con- 
clude by chance. To prefer one future mode of life 
to another, upon just reasons, requires faculties which 
it has not pleased our Creator to give us. 

" If therefore the profession you have chosen has 
some unexpected inconveniencies, console yourself by 
reflecting that no profession is without them ; and that 
all the importunities and perplexities of business are 
softness and luxury, compared with the incessant crav- 
ings of vacancy, and the unsatisfactory expedients of 

8 Hcec sunt quce nostra potui te voce monere ; 
8 Vade, age.' 

" As to your History of Corsica, you have no mate- 

2 This alludes to the first sentence of the proa mlum of my Thesis. " JURISPRU- 
DENTS studio nullum uberius, nullum generosius : in Itgibus enim agitandis, populorum 
mores, -jariasque fortutite vices ex qui&us leges orinntur, conUmplari simul solemus" 


1766. rials which others have not, or may not have. You 
JEtT have, somehow, or other, warmed your imagination. I 
$7. * wish there were some cure, like the lover's leap, for all 
heads of which some single idea has obtained an un- 
reasonable and irregular possession. Mind your own 
affairs, and leave the Corsicans to theirs. I am, dear Sir, 

" Your most humble servant, 
" London, Aug. 21, 1766. " Sam. Johnson." 




( . T n t t' \ rv Y"i/"\t- rr i n 1 f\r ir\ 3 ^ * * ^ ^ * ** * "** ^ ^ ^ 

Auchinleck\ Nov. 6, 1766. 
I plead not guilty to 3 

" Having thus, I hope, cleared myself of the charge 
brought against me, I presume you will not be displeased 
if I escape the punishment which you have decreed for 
me unheard. If you have discharged the arrows of 
criticism against an innocent man, you must rejoice to 
find they have missed him, or have not been pointed 
so as to wound him. 

" To talk no longer in allegory, I am, with all defer- 
ence, going to offer a few observations in defence of my 
Latin, which you have found fault with. 

" You think I should have used spei primce, instead 
of spei alterce. Spes is, indeed, often used to express 
something on which we have a future dependence, as 
in Virg. Eclog. i. 1. 14. 

4 modo namque gemellos 

* Spem gregis ah silice in nudd connixa reliquit.' 

and in Georg. iii. 1. 473. 

4 Spemque gregemque simal' 

for the lambs and the sheep. Yet it is also used to ex- 
press any thing on which we have a present dependence, 
and is well applied to a man of distinguished influence, 
- — our support, our refuge, our prcesidium, as Horace 

1 The passage omitted explained the transaction to which the preceding letter 
had alluded. 


calls Maecenas. So, Mne'\d xii. 1. 57, Queen Amata 1766. 
addresses her son-in-law, Turnus : — ' Spes tu nunc una :' jgu£ 
and he was then no future hope, for she adds, 57. 

' decus imperiumque Latini 

' Te penes. y 

which mi^ht have been said of my Lord Bute somt 
years ago. Now I consider the present Earl of Bute 
to be ' Excelsce familice de Bute spes prima ;' and my 
Lord Mountstuart, as his eldest son, to be ' spes alte- 
ra' So in ifcneid xii. 1. 168, after having mentioned Pa- 
ter TEneas, who was the present spes, the reigning spes, 
as my German friends would say, the spes prima, the 
poet adds, 

* Etjuxta Ascanius, magnae spes altera Romce. 3 

" You think alterce ungrammatical, and you tell me 
it should have been alteri. You must recollect, that 
in old times alter was declined regularly ; and when 
the ancient fragments preserved in the Juris Civilis 
Fontes were written, it was certainly declined in the 
way that I use it. This, I should think, may protect a 
lawyer who writes alterce in a dissertation upon part o>i 
his own science. But as I could hardlv venture to 
quote fragments of old law to so classical a man as Mr. 
Johnson, I have not made an accurate search into these 
remains, to find examples of what I am able to produce 
in poetical composition. We find in Plaut. Rudens. 
act iii. scene 4, 

' Nam hide alterse patria (pice sit profecto nescio.' 

Plautus is, to be sure, an old comick writer ; but in the 
days of Scipio and Lelius, we find Terent. Heautontim. 
act ii. scene 3. 

hoc ipsa in itinere alterae 

' Dum narrate forte audivi.' 

"You doubt my having authority for using genus 
absolutely, for what we call family, that is, for i/lustr'ous 
extraction. Now I take genus in Latin, to have much 
the same signification with birth in English ; both in 


1766. their primary meaning expressing simply descent, but 
jEtaT Dotn ma de to stand xa-r' e|o^w, for noble descent. Ge~ 
57. nus is thus used in Hor. lib. 11. Sat. v. 1. 8. 

' Et genus et virtus, nisi cum re, vilior alga est. 

And in lib. i. Epist. vi. 1. 37. 

4 Et genus et Jbrman Regina pecunia donat? 

And in the celebrated contest between Ajax and Ulys- 
ses, Ovid's Metamorph. lib. xiii. 1. 140. 

' Nam genus et proavos, et quce non fecimus ipsi, 
' Vix ea nostra voco. y 

" Homines nullius originis, for nullis orti majoribus. 
or nullo loco nati, is, " you are afraid, barbarous." 

" Origo is used to signify extraction, as in Yirg. M* 
neid i. 286, 

' Nascetur pulchrd Trojanus origine Ccesar. y 

and in jEneid x. 1. 618, 

' Ille tamen nostra dedueit origine nomen.' 

and as nullus is used for obscure, is it not in the genius 
of the Latin language to write nullius originis, for ob- 
scure extraction I 

" I have defended myself as well as I could. 

" Might L venture to differ from you with regard to 
the utility of vows ? 1 am sensible that it would be very 
danoerous to make vows rashlv, and without a due con- 
sideration. But I cannot help thinking that they may 
often be of great advantage to one of a variable judge- 
ment and irregular inclinations. 1 always remember a 
passage in one of your letters to our Italian friend Ba- 
retti ; where talking of the monastick life, you say you 
do not wonder that serious men should put themselves 
under the protection of a religious order, when they 
have found how unable thev are to take care of them- 


selves. For my own part, without affecting to be a 
Socrates, I am sure I have a more than ordinarv strug- 
gle to maintain with the Evil Principle ; and all the 


methods I can devise are little enough to keep me tol- 1766. 
erably steady in the paths of rectitude. jEtat! 

#####*# 57. 

" I am ever, with the highest veneration, 

" Your affectionate humble servant, 

" James Boswell." 

It appears from Johnson's diary, that he was this year 
at Mr. Thrale's, from before Midsummer till after Mich- 
aelmas, and that he afterwards passed a month at Ox- 
ford. He had then contracted a sreat intimacv with 
Mr. Chambers of that University, afterwards Sir Robert 
Chambers, one of the Judges in India. 

He published nothing this year in his own name ; 
but the noble dedication* to the King, of Gwyn's " Lon- 
don and Westminster improved," was written by him ; 
and he furnished the Preface, f and several of the 
pieces, which compose a volume of Miscellanies by 
Mrs. Anna Williams, the blind lady who had an asylum 
in his house. 4 - Of these,* there are his " Epitaph on 
Philips ;•" " Translation of a Latin Epitaph on Sir 
Thomas Hanmer ;*f" " Friendship, an Ode ;*" and, 
" The Ant,*" a paraphrase from the Proverbs, of which 
I have a copy in his own hand-writing ; and, from in- 
ternal evidence, I ascribe to him, " To Miss on 

her giving the Authour a gold and silk net-work Purse 
of her own weaving ;")*" and " The happy Life.-]*" — 
Most of the pieces in this volume have evidently re- 
ceived additions from his superiour pen, particularly 
" Verses to Mr. Richardson, on his Sir Charles Grand! - 

4 [In a paper already mentioned, (See p. 78 and near the end of the year 176 
the following account of this publication is given by a lady well acquainted with 
Mrs. Williams : 

" As to her poems, she many years attempted to publish them : the half-crown* 
she had got towards the publication, she confessed to me, went for necessaries, and 
that the^greatest pain she ever felt was from the appearance of defrauding her 
subscribers : " but what can I do ? the Doctor [Johnson] alway puts me off with 
' Well we'll think about it,' and Goldsmith says, ' Leave it to me.' However, two 
of her friends, under her directions, made a new subscription at a crown, the whole 
price of the work, and in a very little lime raised sixty pounds. Mrs. Carter was 
applied to by Mrs. Williams's desire, and she, with the utmost activity and kind- 
ness, procured a long list of names. At length the work was published, in which 
is a fine written but gloomy tale of Dr. Johnson. The money Mrs. Williams had 
various uses for, and a part of it wr.s funded." 

By this publication Mrs. Williams got 150/. Ibid. M.] 

VOL. I. ,j2 


1766. son ;" " The Excursion ;" " Reflections on a Grave 
U^ digging in Westminster Abbey." There is in this col- 
57. lection a poem, " On the death of Stephen Grey, the 
Electrician ;*" which, on reading it, appeared to me to 
be undoubtedly Johnson's. I asked Mrs. Williams 
whether it was not his. " Sir, (said she, with some 
warmth,) I wrote that poem before 1 had the honour of 
Dr. Johnson's acquaintance." I, however, was so 
much impressed with my first notion, that I mentioned 
it to Johnson, repeating, at the same time, what Mrs 
Williams had said. His answer was, " It is true, Sir, 
that she wrote it before she was acquainted with me ; 
but she has not told you that I wrote it all over again, 
except two lines." " The Fountains,-]-" a beautiful lit- 
tle Fairy tale in prose, written with exquisite simplicity, 
is one of Johnson's productions ; and I cannot withhold 
from Mrs. Thrale the praise of being the authour of 
that admirable poem, " The Three Warnings." 

He wrote this year a letter, not intended for publi- 
cation, which has, perhaps, as strong marks of his sen- 
timent and style, as any of his compositions. The orig- 
inal is in my possession. It is addressed to the late 
Mr. William Drummond, bookseller in Edinburgh, a 
gentleman of good family, but small estate, who took 
arms for the house of Stuart in 174-5 ; and during his 
concealment in London till the act of general pardon 
came out, obtained the acquaintance of Dr. Johnson, 
who justly esteemed him as a very worthy man. It 
seems, some of the members of the society in Scotland 
for propagating Christian knowledge had opposed the 
scheme of translating the holy scriptures into the Erse 
or Gaelick language, from political considerations of the 
disadvantage of keeping up the distinction between the 
Highlanders and the other inhabitants of North-Britain. 
Dr. Johnson being informed of this, I suppose by Mr. 
Drummond, wrote with a generous indignation as fol- 
lows : 


" SIR, 

' c I did not expect to hear that it could be, in an 
assembly convened for the propagation of Christian 


knowledge, a question whether any nation uninstructed 176G. 
in religion should receive instruction ; or whether that ^£^a 
instruction should he imparted to them bv a translation 57. 
of the holy books into their own language. If obedi- 
ence to the will of God be necessary to happiness, and 
knowledge of his will be necessary to obedience, 1 
know not how he that withholds this knowledge, or de- 
lays it, can be said to love his neighbour as himself. 
He, that voluntarily continues ignorance, is guilty of 
all the crimes which ignorance produces ; as to him 
that should extinguish the tapers of a light-house, 
might justly be imputed the calamities of shipwrecks. 
Christianity is the highest perfection of humanity ; and 
as no man is good but as he wishes the good of others, 
no man can be good in the highest degree, who wishes 
not to others the largest measures of the greatest good. 
To omit for a vear, or for a day, the most efficacious 
method of advancing Christianity, in compliance with 
any purposes that terminate on this side of the grave, is 
a crime of which I know r not that the world has yet had 
an example, except in the practice of the planters of 
America, a race of mortals whom, I suppose, no other 
man wishes to resemble. 

" The Papists have, indeed, denied to the laity the 
use of the bible ; but this prohibition, in few places now 
very rigorously enforced, is defended b}' arguments, 
which have for their foundation the care of souls. To 
obscure, upon motives merely political, the light of rev- 
elation, is a practice reserved for the reformed ; and, 
surely, the blackest midnight of popery is meridian sun- 
shine to such a reformation. I am not very willing- 
that any language should be totally extinguished. The 
similitude and derivation of languages afford the most 
indubitable proof of the traduction of nations, and the 
genealogy of mankind. They add often physical cer- 
tainty to historical evidence ; and often supply the only 
evidence of ancient migrations, and of the revolutions 
of ages which left no written monuments behind them. 

"Every man's opinions, at least his desires, are a lit- 
tle influenced by his favourite studies. My zeal for 
languages may seem, perhaps, rather over-heated, even 


1766. to those by whom I desire to be well esteemed. To 
jr^ those who have nothing in their thoughts but trade or 
57. policy, present power, or present money, I should not 
think it necessary to defend my opinions ; but with 
men of letters I would not unwillingly compound, by 
wishing the continuance of every language, however 
narrow in its extent, or however incommodious for com- 
mon purposes, till it is reposited in some version of a 
known book, that it may be always hereafter examined 
and compared with other languages, and then permit- 
ting its disuse. For this purpose the translation of the 
bible is most to be desired. It is not certain that the 
same method will not preserve the Highland language, 
for the purposes of learning, and abolish it from daily 
use. When the Highlanders read the Bible, they will 
naturally wish to have its obscurities cleared, and to 
know the history, collateral or appendant. Knowledge 
always desires increase ; it is like fire, which must first 
be kindled by some external agent, but which will af- 
terwards propagate itself. When they once desire to 
learn, they will naturally have recourse to the nearest 
language by which that desire can be gratified ; and one 
will teli another, that if he would attain knowledge, he 
must learn English. 

" This speculation may, perhaps, be thought more 
subtle than the grossness of real life will easily admit. 
Let it, however, be remembered, that the efficacy of ig- 
norance has long been tried, and has not produced the 
consequence expected. Let knowledge, therefore, take 
its turn ; and let the patrons of privation stand awhile 
aside, and admit the operation of positive principles. 

You will be pleased, Sir, to assure the worthy man 
who is employed in the new translation, 5 that he has 

'' The Rev. Mr. John Campbell, Minister of the parish of Kippen, near Stirling, 
who has lately favoured me with a long, intelligent, and very obliging letter up- 
on this work, makes the following remark. " Dr. Johnson has alluded to the 
worthy man employed in the translation of the New Testament. Might not this 
have afforded you an opportunity of paying a proper tribute of respect to the 
memory of the Rev. Mr. James Stuart, late Minister of Killin, distinguished by 
his eminent Piety, Learning, and Taste. The amiable simplicity of his life, his 
warm benevolence, his indefatigable and successful exertions for civilizing and 
improving the Parish of which he was Minister for upwards of fifty years, entitle 
him to the gratitude of his country, and the veneration of all good men. It cer- 
tainly would be a pity, if such a character should be permitted to emk into obliv- 


my wishes for his success ; and if here or at Oxford I 1766. 
can be of any use, that I shal! think it more than hon- ^f^ 
our to promote his undertaking. 57 

" I am sorry that L delayed so long to write. 
" 1 am, Sir, 

" Your most humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 
^ Johnson^ s-court, Fleet-street, Aug. 13, 1766. 


The opponents of this pious scheme being made 
ashamed of their conduct, the benevolent undertaking 
was allowed to go on. 

The following letters, though not written till the 
year after, being chiefly upon the same subject, are 
here inserted. 


" That my letter should have had such effects as 
you mention, gives me great pleasure. I hope you do 
not flatter me by imputing to me more good than I have 
really done. Those whom my arguments have per- 
suaded to change their opinion, shew such modesty 
and candour as deserve great praise. 

" I hope the worthy translator goes diligently for- 
ward. He has a higher reward in prospect than any 
honours which this world can bestow. 1 wish I could 
be useful to him. 

" The publication of my letter, if it could be of use 
in a cause to which all other causes are nothing, I should 
not prohibit. But first, I would have you to consider 
whether the publication will really do any good ; next, 
whether by printing and distributing a very small num- 
ber, you may not attain all that you propose ; and, what 
perhaps I should have said first, whether the letter, 
which I do not now perfectly remember, be fit to be 

" If you can consult Dr. Robertson, to whom I am 
a little known, 1 shall be satisfied about the propriety 
of whatever he shall direct. If he thinks that it should 
be printed, I entreat him to revise it ; there may, per- 

414 THE LIFE Ol? 

1767. haps, be some negligent lines written, and whatever is 
JJ^T afrnss 5 ne knows very well how to rectify. 6 
5s. ' " Be pleased to let me know, from time to time, how 
this excellent design goes forward. 

" Make my compliments to young Mr. Drummond, 

whom I hope you will live to see such as you desire him. 

" I have not lately seen Mr. Elphinston, but believe 

him to be prosperous. I shall be glad to hear the same 

of you, for 1 am, Sir, 

" Your affectionate humble servant, 

" Sam. Johnson." 
" Johnson 's-court, Tleet-strect, April 21, 1767." 


" SIR, 

" I returned this week from the country, after 
an absence of near six months, and found your letter 
with many others, which I should have answered sooner, 
if I had sooner seen them. 

" Dr. Robertson's opinion was surely right. Men 
should not be told of the faults which they have mend- 
ed. I am glad the old language is taught, and honour 
the translator as a man whom God has distinguished 
by the high office of propagating his word. 

" I must take the liberty of engaging you in an office 
of charity. Mrs. Heely, the wife of Mr. Heely, who 
had lately some office in your theatre, is my near rela- 
tion, and now in srreat distress. Thev wrote me word 
of their situation some time ago, to which I return- 
ed them an answer which raised hopes of more than 
it is proper for me to give them. Their representation 
of their affairs I have discovered to be such as cannot 
be trusted ; and at this distance, though their case re- 
quires haste, I know not how to act. She, or her daugh- 
ters, may be heard of at .Canongate Head. I must beg, 
Sir, that you will enquire after them, and let me know 
what is to be done. I am willing to go to ten pounds, 
and will transmit you such a sum, if upon examination 

This paragraph shews Johnson's real estimation of the character and abilities 
of the celebrated Scottish Historian, however lightly, in a moment of caprice, he 
may have spoken of his works. 


you find it likely to be of use. If they are in i named i- 1767. 
ate want, advance them what you think proper. What JJ^ 
J could do, I would do for the woman, having no great .-,$. 
reason to pay much regard to Heely himself. 7 

" I believe you may receive some intelligence from 
Mrs. Baker, of the theatre, whose letter 1 received at 
the same time with yours ; and to whom, if you see 
her, you will make my excuse for the seeming neglect 
of answering her. 

" Whatever you advance within ten pounds shall be 
immediately returned to you, or paid as you shall order. 
I trust wholly to your judgement. 

" I am, Sir, &c. 

" Sam. Johnson." 
" London, J ohnsotfs-court, Fleet-street, Oct. 24, k76'7. ,J 

Mr. Cuthbert Shaw, 8 alike distinguished by his 
genius, misfortunes, and misconduct, published this 
year a poem, called " The Race, by Mercurius Spur, 
Esq." in which he whimsically made the living poets 
of England contend for pre-eminence of fame by run- 
ning : 

" Prove by their heels the prowess of the head." 

In this poem there was the following portrait of John- 
son : 

" Here Johnson comes, — unblest with outward grace. 

His rigid morals stamp'd upon his face. 

While strong conceptions struggle in his brain ; 

(For even wit is brought to bed with pain :) 
" To view him, porters with their loads would rest, 
" And babes clino- frighted to the nurse's breast. 
" With looks convuls'd he roars in pompous strain. 
" And, like an angry lion, shakes his mane. 
" The Nine, with terrour struck, who ne'er had seen, 
" Aught human with so terrible a mien, 
" Debating whether they should stay or run, 
" Virtue steps forth, and claims him for her son. 

" Tliis is the person concerning whom Sir John Hawkins has thrown out very 
unwarrantable reflections both against Dr. Johnson and Mr. Francis Barber. 

£ See an account of him in the European Magazine, Jan. 1 786. 


1767. " With gentle speech she warns him now to yield, 
Nor stain his glories in the doubtful field ; 
But wrapt in conscious worth, content sit down, 
Since Fame, resolved his various pleas to crown. 
" Though forc'd his present claim to disavow, 
" Had long reserved a chaplet for his brow. 
" He bows, obeys ; for time shall first expire, 
" Ere Johnson stay, when Virtue bids retire/ 5 

The Honourable Thomas Hervey 9 and his lady hav- 
ing unhappily disagreed, and being about to separate, 
Johnson interfered as their friend, and wrote him a let- 
ter of expostulation, which I have not been able to 
find ; but the substance of it is ascertained by a letter 
to Johnson in answer to it, which Mr. Hervey printed. 
The occasion of this correspondence between Dr. John- 
son and Mr. Hervey, was thus related to me by Mr. 
Beauclerk. " Tom Hervey had a great liking for John- 
son, and in his will had left him a legacy of fifty pounds. 
One day he said to me, ' Johnson may want this money 
now, more than afterwards. I have a mind to give it 
him directly. Will you be so good as to carry a fifty 
pound note from me to him V This I positively refused 
to do, as he might, perhaps, have knocked me down for 
insulting him, and have afterwards put the note in his 
pocket. But I said, if Hervey would write him a letter, 
and enclose a fifty pound note, I should take care to 
deliver it. He accordingly did write him a letter, 
mentioning that he was only paying a legacy a little 
sooner. To his letter he added, ' P. S. I am going to 
part with mij wife.' Johnson then wrote to him, say- 
ing nothing of the note, but remonstrating with him 
against parting with his wife." 

When I mentioned to Johnson this storv, in as deli- 
cate terms as I could, he told me that the fifty pound 
note was given to him by Mr. Hervey in consideration 
of his having written for him a pamphlet against Sir 

9 [The Honourable Thomas Hervey, whose letter to Sir Thomas Hanmer in 
1742, was much read at that time. He was the second son of John, the first Earl 
of Bristol, and one of the brothers of Johnson's earlv friend, Henry Hervey. He 
married in 1744, Anne, daughter of francis Coughla'n, Esq. and died Jan. 20, 1775, 


Charles Hanbury Williams, who, Mr. Ilervey imagined, 1767. 
was the authour of an attack upon him ; but that it was jg^ 
afterwards discovered to be the work of a garreteer, 58. * 
who wrote "The Fool :" the pamphlet therefore 
against Sir Charles was not printed. 

In February, 17o'7, there happened one of the most 
remarkable incidents of Johnson's life, which gratified 
his monarchical enthusiasm, and which he loved to re- 
late with all its circumstances, when requested by his 
friends. This was his being honoured by a private 
conversation with his Majesty, in the library at the 
Queen's house. He had frequently visited those splen- 
did rooms and noble collection of books, 1 which he 
used to say was more numerous and curious than he 
supposed any person could have made in the time 
which the King had employed. Mr. Barnard, the li- 
brarian, took care that he should have every accommo- 
dation that could contribute to his ease and conven- 
ience, while indulging his literary taste in that place ; 
so that he had here a very agreeable resource at leisure 

His Majesty having been informed of his occasional 
visits, was pleased to signify a desire that he should be 
told when Dr. Johnson came next to the library. Ac- 
cordingly, the next time that Johnson did come, as 
soon as he was fairly engaged with a book, on which, 
while he sat by the fire, he seemed quite intent, Mr. 
Barnard stole round to the apartment where the King 
was, and, in obedience to his Majesty's commands, 
mentioned that Dr. Johnson was then in the library. 
His Majesty said he was at leisure, and would go to 
him ; upon which Mr. Barnard took one of the candles 
that stood on the King's table, and lighted his Majesty 
through a suite of rooms, till they came to a private 
door into the library, of which his Majesty had the 
key. Being entered, Mr. Barnard stepped forward 

J Dr. Johnson had the honour of contributing his assistance towards the forma- 
tion of this library ; for I have read a long letter from him to Mr. Barnard, giving 
the most masterly instructions on the subject. I wished much to have gratified 
my readers with the perusal of this letter, and have reason to think that his Majes- 
ty would have been graciously pleased to permit its publication : but Mr. Barnard, 
ro whom I applied, declined it " on his own account." 

VOL. T. 5'3 



1767. hastily to Dr. Johnson, who was still in a profound 
'^y study, and whispered him, " Sir, here is the King/* 
" Johnson started up, and stood still. His Majesty ap- 
proached him, and at once was courteously easy. 2 

His Majesty began by observing, that he understood 
he came sometimes to the library ; and then mentioned 
his having heard that the Doctor had been lately at 
Oxford, asked him if he was not fond of going thither. 
To which Johnson answered, that he was indeed fond 
of going to Oxford sometimes, but was likewise glad 
to come back again. The King then asked him what 
they were doing at Oxford. Johnson answered, he 
could not much commend their diligence, but that in 
some respects they were mended, for they had put their 
press under better regulations, and were at that time 
printing Polybius. He was then asked whether there 
were better libraries at Oxford or Cambridge. He an- 
swered, he believed the Bodleian was larger than any 
they had at Cambridge ; at the same time adding, " I 
hope, whether we have more books or not than they 
have at Cambridge, we shall make as good use of them 
as they do." Being asked whether x\ll-Souls or Christ- 
Church library was the largest, he answered, " All- 
Souls library is the largest we have, except the Bod- 
leian." " Ay, (said the King,) that is the publick li- 

His Majesty enquired if he was then writing any 
thing. He answered, he was not, for he had pretty 

2 The particulars of this conversation I have been at great pains to collect with 
the utmost authenticity, from Dr. Johnson's own detail to myself : from Mr. Lang- 
ton who was present when he gave an account of it to Dr. Joseph Warton, and 
several other friends at Sir Joshua Reynolds's ; from Mr. Barnard ; from the copy 
of a letter written by the late Mr. Strahan the printer, to Bishop Warburton ; and 
from a minute, the original of which is among the papers of the late Sir James 
Caldwell, and a copy of which was most obligingly obtained for me from his son 
Sir John Caldwell, by Sir Francis Lumm. To all these gentlemen I beg leave to 
make my grateful acknowledgements, and particularly to Sir Francis Lumm, who 
was pleased to take a great deal of trouble, and even had the minute laid before 
the King by Lord Caermarthen, now Duke of Leeds, then one of his Majesty'? 
Principal Secretaries of State, who announced to Sir Francis the Royal pleasure 
concerning it by a letter, in these words : " I have the rving's commands to assure 
you, Sir, how sensible his Majesty is of your attention in communicating the min- 
ute of conversation previous to its publication. As there appears no objection to 
vour complying with Mr. Boswell's wishes on the subject, you are at full liberty 
to deliver it to that gentleman, to make such use of in his Life of Dr. Johnson, as 
he may think proper." 


well told the world what he knew, and must now read 1767. 
to acquire more knowledge. The King, as it should JJ^ 
seem with a view to urge hiin to rely on his own stores 58. 
as an original writer, and to continue his labours, then 
said " 1 do not think you borrow much from any 
body." Johnson said, he thought he had already done 
his part as a writer. " I should have thought so too, 
(said the King,) if you had not written so well." — 
Johnson observed to me, upon this, that " No man 
could have paid a handsomer compliment ; and it was 
fit for a King to pay. It was decisive." When asked 
by another friend, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, whether 
he made any reply to this high compliment, he answer- 
ed, " No, Sir. When the King had said it, it was to 
be so. It was not for me to bandy civilities with mv 
Sovereign." Perhaps no man who had spent his whole 
life in courts could have shewn a more nice and dig- 
nified sense of true politeness, than Johnson did in this 

His Majesty having observed to him that he sup- 
posed he must have read a great deal ; Johnson an- 
swered, that he thought more than he read ; that he 
had read a great deal in the early part of his life, but 
having fallen into ill health, he had not been able to 
read much, compared with others : for instance, he said 
he had not read much, compared with Dr. Warburton. 
Upon which the King said, that he heard Dr. Warbur- 
ton was a man of such general knowledge, that you 
could scarce talk with him on any subject on which he 
was not qualified to speak ; and that his learning re- 
sembled Garrick's acting, in its universality. 3 His 
Majesty then talked of the controversy between War- 
burton and Lowth, which he seemed to have read, and 
asked Johnson what he thought of it. Johnson an- 
swered, " Warburton has most general, most scholastick 
learning ; Lowth is the more correct scholar. 1 do not 
know which of them calls names best." The King 

'The Reverend Mr. Strahan clearly recollects having been told by Johnson, 
that the King observed that Pope made Warburton a Bishop. " True, Sir, (said 
Johnson,) but Warburton did more for Pope ; he made him a Christian :" allud- 
ing, no doubt, to his ingenious comments on the " Essay on Man." 


1767. was pleased to say he was of the same opinion ; adding, 

2^ a J" " \ou do not think then, Dr. Johnson, that there was 

57. ' much argument in the case." Johnson said, he did 

not think there was. " Why truly, (said the King,) 

when once it comes to calling names, argument is 

pretty well at an end." 

His Majesty then asked him what he thought of 
Lord Lyttelton's history, which was then just publish- 
ed. Johnson said, he thought his style pretty good, 
but that he had blamed Henry the Second rather too 
much. " Why, (said the King,) they seldom do these 
things by halves." " No, Sir, (answered Johnson) not 
to Kings." But fearing to be misunderstood, he pro- 
ceeded to explain himself; and immediately subjoined, 
" That for those who spoke worse of Kings than they 
deserved, he could find no excuse ; but that he could 
more easily conceive how some might speak better of 
them than they deserved, without any ill intention ; 
for, as Kings had much in their power to give, those 
who were favoured by them would frequently, from 
gratitude, exaggerate their praises : and as this pro- 
ceeded from a good motive, it was certainly excusable, 
as far as errour could be excusable." 

The King then asked him what he thought of Dr. 
Hill. Johnson answered, that he was an ingenious 
man, but had no veracity ; and immediately mention- 
ed, as an instance of it, an assertion of that writer, that 
he had seen objects magnified to a much greater de- 
gree by using three or four microscopes at a time than 
by using one. " Now, (added Johnson,) every one ac- 
quainted with microscopes knows, that the more of 
them he looks through, the less the object will appear." 
" Why, (replied the King,) this is not only telling an 
untruth, but telling it clumsily ; for, if that be the case, 
every one who can look through a microscope will bf 
able to detect him." 

"• I now, (said Johnson to his friends, when relating 
what had passed,) began to consider that I was depre- 
ciating this man in the estimation of his Sovereign, and 
thought it was time for me to say something that might 
1 3 more favourable," He added, therefore, that Dr 


Hill was, notwithstanding, a very curious observer ; 1767. 
and if he would have been contented to tell the world *£££ 
no more than he knew, he might have been a very con- 58 . 
siderable man, and needed not to have recourse to such 
mean expedients to raise his reputation. 

The King then talked of literary journals, mentioned 
particularly the Journal des Savans, and asked Johnson 
if it was well done. Johnson said, it was formerly very 
well done, and gave some account of the persons who 
began it, and carried it on for some years : enlarging at 
the same time, on the nature and use of such works. 
The King asked him if it was well done now. Johnson 
answered, he had no reason to think that it was. The 
King then asked him if there were any other literary 
journals published in this kingdom, except the Monthly 
and Critical Reviews ; and on being answered there 
was no other, his Majesty asked which of them was the 
best ; Johnson answered, that the Monthly Review was 
done with most care, the Critical upon the best princi- 
ples ; adding that the authours of the Monthly Review 
w^ere enemies to the Church. This the King said he 
was sorry to hear. 

The conversation next turned on the Philosophical 
Transactions, when Johnson observed that they had 
now a better method of arranging their materials than 
formerly. " Ay, (said the King,) they are obliged to 
Dr. Johnson for that ;" for his Majesty had heard and 
remembered the circumstance, which Johnson himself 
had forgot. 

His Majesty expressed a desire to have the literary 
biography of this country ably executed, and proposed 
to Dr. Johnson to undertake it. Johnson signified his 
readiness to comply with his Majesty's wishes. 

During the whole of this interview, Johnson talked 
to his Majesty with profound respect, but still in his 
firm manly manner, with a sonorous voice, and never in 
that subdued tone which is commonly used at the levee 
and in the drawing room. After the King withdrew, 
Johnson shewed himself highly pleased with his Majes- 
ty's conversation, and gracious behaviour. He said to 
Mr. Barnard. " Sir. they may talk of the King as they 


1767. will ; but he is the finest gentleman I have ever seen. 53 
jEtaT A nc * ne a f tenvar( ^ s observed to Mr. Langton, " Sir, his 
58. ' manners are those of as fine a gentleman as we may 
suppose Lewis the Fourteenth or Charles the Second." 
At Sir Joshua Reynolds's, where a circle of John- 
son's friends was collected round him to hear his ac- 
count of this memorable conversation, Dr. Joseph War- 
ton, in his frank and lively manner, was very active in 
pressing him to mention the particulars. " Come now, 
Sir, this is an interesting matter ; do favour us with it." 
Johnson, with great good humour, complied. 

He told them, " I found his Majesty wished I should 
talk, and I made it my business to talk. I find it does 
a man good to be talked to by his Sovereign. In the 
first place, a man cannot be in a passion — ." Here 
some question interrupted him, which is to be regretted, 
as he certainly would have pointed out and illustrated 
many circumstances of advantage, from being in a situ- 
ation, where the powers of the mind are at once excited 
to vigorous exertion, and tempered by reverential awe. 
During all the time in which Dr. Johnson was em- 
ployed in relating to the circle at Sir Joshua Reynolds's 
the particulars of what passed between the King and 
him, Dr. Goldsmith remained unmoved upon a sopha 
at some distance, affecting not to join in the least in the 
eager curiosity of the company. He assigned as a rea- 
son for his gloom and seeming inattention, that he ap- 
prehended Johnson had relinquished his purpose of 
furnishing him with a Prologue to his play, with the 
hopes of which he had been flattered ; but it was 
strongly suspected that he was fretting with chagrin and 
envy at the singular honour Dr. Johnson had lately en- 
joyed. At length, the frankness, and simplicity of his 
natural character prevailed. He sprung from the sopha, 
advanced to Johnson, and in a kind of flutter, from im- 
agining himself in the situation which he had just been 
hearing described, exclaimed, " Well, you acquitted 
yourself in this conversation better than I should have 
done ; for I should have bowed and stammered through 
the whole of it." 


I received no letter from Johnson this year ; nor have 1767. 
I discovered any of the correspondence 5 he had, except J>^ 
the two letters to Mr. Drummond, which have been in- 58 . 
serted, for the sake of connection with that to the same 
gentleman in 1766. His diary affords no light as to his 
employment at this time. He passed three months at 
Lichfield : 6 and 1 cannot omit an affecting and solemn 
scene there, as related by himself : 

" Sunday, Oct. 18, 1767- Yesterday, Oct. 17, at 
about ten in the morning, I took my leave for ever of 
my dear old friend, Catharine Chambers, who came to 
live with my mother about 1724, and has been but little 
parted from us since. She buried my father, my broth- 
er, and my mother. She is now fifty-eight years old. 

" I desired all to withdraw, then told her that we 
were to part for ever ; that as Christians, we should 
part with prayer ; and that I would, if she was willing, 
say a short prayer beside her. She expressed great de- 
sire to hear me ; and held up her poor hands, as she lay 
in bed, with great fervour, while I prayed, kneeling by 
her, nearly in the following words : 

" Almighty and most merciful Father, whose loving- 
kindness is over all thy works, behold, visit, and relieve 
this thy servant, who is grieved with sickness. Grant 
that the sense of her weakness may add strength to her 
faith, and seriousness to her repentance. And grant 
that by the help of thy Holy Spirit, after the pains and 
labours of this short life, we may ail obtain everlasting 
happiness, through Jesus Christ our Lord, for whose 
sake hear our prayers. Amen. Our father, &c. 

" I then kissed her. She told me, that to part was 
the greatest pain that she had ever felt, and that she 
hoped we should meet again in a better place. I ex- 
pressed, with swelled eyes, and great emotion of ten- 

b It is proper here to mention, that when I speak of his correspondence, I con- 
sider it independent of the voluminous collection of letters which, in the course of 
many years, he wrote to Mrs. Thrale, which forms a separate part of his works ; 
and as a proof of the high estimation set on any thing which came from lus pen, 
was sold by that lady for the sum of five hundred pounds. 

6 [In his letter to Mr. Drummond dated Oct. 24, 1767, he mentions that he had 
arrived in London, after an absence, of nearly six months, in the country. Proba- 
bly part of that rime was spent at Oxford. M.j 


!767. derness, the same hopes. We kissed, and parted. 1 
jEt^ humbly hope to meet again, and to part no more." 7 
58. ' By those who have been taught to look upon John- 
son as a man of a harsh and stern character, let this 
tender and affectionate scene be candidly read ; and let 
them then judge whether more warmth of heart, and 
grateful kindness, is often found in human nature. 

We have the following notice in his devotional 
record : 

"August 2, 1767- I have been disturbed and un- 
settled for a long time, and have been without resolu- 
tion to apply to study or to business, being hindered by 
sudden snatches." 8 

He, however, furnished Mr. Adams with a Dedica- 
tion* to the King, of that ingenious gentleman's" Trea- 
tise on the Globes," conceived and expressed in such a 
manner as could not fail to be very grateful to a Mon- 
arch, distinguished for his love of the sciences. 

This year was published a ridicule of his style, under 
the title of" Lexiphanes." Sir John Hawkins ascribes 
it to Dr. Kenrick ; but its authour was one Campbell, 
a Scotch purser in the navy. The ridicule consisted in 
applying Johnson's " words of large meaning," to insig- 
nificant matters, as if one should put the armour of Go- 
liath upon a dwarf. The contrast might be laughable ; 
but the dignity of the armour must remain the same in 
all considerate minds. This malicious drollery, there- 
fore, it may easily be supposed, could do no harm to its 
illustrious object. 



" That you have been all summer in London is 
one more reason for which I regret my long stay in the 
country. 1 hope that you will not leave the town be- 
fore my return. We have here only the chance of va- 
cancies, in the passing carriages, and I have bespoken 

7 Prayers and Meditations, p. 77 and 78. 

8 Prayers and Meditations, p. 73- 


one that may, if it happens, bring me to town on the 1768. 
fourteenth of this month : but this is not certain. Sat! 

" It will be a favour if you communicate this to Mrs. 59. 
Williams : I long to see all my friends. 

"I am, dear Sir, 

" Your most humble servant, 
" Lichfield, Oct. 10, 1767- " Sam. Johnson." 

It appears from his notes of the state of his mind, 9 
that he suffered great perturbation and distraction in 
1 70S. Nothing of his writing was given to the publick 
this year, except the Prologue* to his friend Gold- 
smith's comedy of " The Good-natured Man." The 
first lines of this Prologue are strongly characteristical 
of the dismal gloom of his mind ; which in his case, as 
in the case of all who are distressed with the same mal- 
ady of imagination, transfers to others its own feelings. 
Who could suppose it was to introduce a comedy, when 
Mr. Bensley solemnly began, 

" Press'd with the load of life, the weary mind 
" Surveys the general toil of human kind." 

But this dark ground might make Goldsmith's humour 
shine the more. 

In the spring of this year, having published my " Ac- 
count of Corsica, with the Journal of a Tour to that 
Island," I returned to London, very desirous to see Dr. 
Johnson, and hear him upon the subject. I found he 
was at Oxford, with his friend Mr. Chambers, who was 
now Vinerian Professor, and lived in New Inn Hall. 
Having had no letter from him since that in which he 
criticised the Latinity of my Thesis, and having been 
told by somebody that he was offended at my having 
put into my book an extract of his letter to me at Pa- 
ris, I was impatient to be with him, and therefore fol- 
lowed him to Oxford, where I was entertained by Mr. 
Chambers, with a civility which I shall ever gratefully 
remember. I found that Dr. Johnson had sent a letter 
to me to Scotland, and that I had nothing to complain 

' Prayers and Meditations, p. §1. 
VOL, T, 54 


1768. of bat his being more indifferent to my anxiety than I 
'Stat! wished him to be. Instead of giving, with the circum- 
59. stances of time and place, such fragments of his conver- 
sation as I preserved during this visit to Oxford, I shall 
throw them together in continuation. 

i asked him whether, as a moralist, he did not think 
that the practice of the law, in some degree, hurt the 
nice feeling of honesty. Johnson. " Why no, Sir, if 
you act properly. You are not to deceive your clients 
with false representations of your opinion : you are not 
to tell lies to a judge. " Boswell. " But what do you 
think of supporting a cause which you know to be 
bad I" Johnson. " Sir, you do not know it to be good 
or bad till the judge determines it. I have said that 
you are to state facts fairly ; so that your thinking, or 
what you call knowing, a cause to be bad, must be 
from reasoning, must be from your supposing your ar- 
guments to be weak and inconclusive. But, Sir, that is 
not enough. An argument which does not convince 
yourself, may convince the Judge to whom you urge it : 
and if it does convince him, why, then, Sir, you are 
wrong, and he is right. It is his business to judge ; 
and you are not to be confident in your own opinion 
that a cause is bad, but to say all you can for your cli- 
ent, and then hear the Judge's opinion." Boswell, 
* ; But, Sir, does not affecting a warmth when you have 
no warmth, and appearing to be clearly of one opinion 
when you are in reality of another opinion, does not 
such dissimulation impair one's honesty I Is there not 
some danger that a lawyer may put on the same mask 
in common life, in the intercourse with his friends?" 
Johnson. " Who no, Sir. Every body knows you art 
paid for affecting warmth for your client ; and it is ? 
therefore, properly no dissimulation : the moment you 
come from the bar vou resume your usual behaviour. 
Sir, a man will no more carry the artifice of the bar in- 
to the common intercourse of society, than a man who 
is paid for tumbling upon his hands will continue to tum- 
ble upon his hands when he should walk on his feet.'* 
Talking of some of the modern plays, he said, " False 
Delicacy" was totally void of character, He praised 


Goldsmith's "Good-natured Man ;" said, it was the 1768. 
best comedy, that had appeared since " The Provoked j£J££ 
Husband;" and that there had not been of late any 59. 
such character exhibited on the stage as that of Croak- 
er. I observed it was the Suspirius of his Rambler. 
He said, Goldsmith had owned lie had borrowed it 
from thence. "Sir, (continued he) there is all the dif- 
ference in the world between characters of nature and 
characters of manners; and there is the difference be- 
tween the characters of Fielding and those of Richard- 
son. Characters of manners are very entertaining ; 
but they are to be understood, by a more superficial 
observer, than characters of nature, where a man must 
dive into the recesses of the human heart." 

It always appeared to me that he estimated the com- 
positions of Richardson too highly, and that he had an 
unreasonable prejudice against Fielding. In comparing 
those two writers, he used this expression ; " that there 
was as great a difference between them as between a man 
who knew how a watch was made, and a man who 
could tell the hour by looking on the dial-plate." This 
was a short and figurative state of his distinction be- 
tween drawing characters of nature and characters only 
of manners. But 1 cannot help being of opinion, that 
the neat watches of Fielding are as well constructed as 
the large clocks of Richardson, and that his dial-plates 
are brighter. Fielding's characters, though they do not 
expand themselves so widely in dissertation, are as just 
pictures of human nature, and I will venture to say, 
have more striking features, and nicer touches of the 
pencil ; and though Johnson us.ed to quote with appro- 
bation a saving of Richardson's, " that the virtues of 
Fielding's heroes were the vices of a truly good man," 
I will venture to add, that the moral tendency of Field- 
ing's writings, though it does not encourage a strained 
and rarely possible virtue, is ever favourable to honour 
and honesty, and cherishes the benevolent and generous 
affections. He who is as good as Fielding would 
make him, is an amiable member of society, and may 
be led on by more regulated instructors, to a higher 
state of ethical perfection. 


1768. Johnson proceeded ; " Even Sir Francis Wronghead 
iEut! ' s a cnarac ter of manners, though drawn with great hu- 
59. mour." He then repeated, very happily, all Sir Fran- 
cis's credulous account